McHENRY – Trevor Folz isn’t a big reader.
But Thursday morning, he was ready to ask author Neal Shusterman a question about “Unwind,” the book picked by McHenry West High School staff as the inaugural read for the One Book One School program.
“It had a lot of twists and turns in it, so it just grabbed you at every turn,” said Folz, a senior at West Campus.
Staff spent most of last year picking the book, said Jennifer Eiserman, a reading specialist who is in her seventh year at West Campus. They wanted a fun book.
“The goal was to get students to see reading in a different way, that it would be a book that they would enjoy,” Eiserman said. “At high school, sometimes we kill reading for kids because they have to read a lot of academic books.”
Set in the future, the book also tackles contemporary issues and big ideas that could inspire classroom discussions. The book has been popping up all over the place, Eiserman said.
Senior Alex Houck works at a car dealership, and she said she recommended it to her co-worker and gave her a copy of the book.
“We talk about it at the most random times,” she said.
The school was able to buy each student a copy of the book through fundraising. Eiserman said she’s had students who have never owned a book before and were excited to have one of their own.
“A lot of us are surrounded by books and grew up as readers,” she said. “To see kids not having that, it’s kind of sad, so we wanted to change that.”
The school also arranged for the author to make two presentations to students Thursday, and instead of paying a speaking fee, the school bought 200 copies of Shusterman’s next book to sell to students.
“I think there’s a place for classics, and I think that contemporary literature is extremely important,” Shusterman said. “I think it needs to be thought-provoking literature. The educators are really good at picking literature that will bring about discussion and challenge the kids to think. A lot of really good stuff is being published for young adults right now.”
Folz estimates that about half of the students at West read the book.
“It made a lot more people read,” Folz said. “A lot of my friends who don’t read at all picked up the book and read the whole thing. I would definitely recommend it for future classes.”
Eiserman hopes to bring back the program next year and perhaps expand it to East Campus or the McHenry Public Library.