Young people are not reading like they used to, at least that’s what one teacher has recently observed. Jeff Kass teaches creative writing at Pioneer High School and Eastern Michigan University. He also runs the Neutral Zone’s literary arts program in Ann Arbor.
Kass says about half of the kids in his classes are not reading in their free time and he adds it’s noticeably worse with boys. That bothers Kass, who says it’s vital that young people read.
“Reading is incredibly important in terms of developing empathy between people and understanding other cultures and other people’s insights. I mean people have to read. Boys have got to read and we cannot give up on them! I think we have to go after boys where they live, and find out what are their fears, insecurities, hopes, dreams? We’ve got to write the literature that speaks to them and gets to the heart of what’s really on their minds.”
He’s so jazzed up on this notion that he wrote a book of short stories called “Knuckleheads.” The stories take a look at what it means to be a guy growing up in America. Kass had a specific young person in mind while writing the book.
“I hope that kid in the back of my classroom who just wants to put his head down on the desk, who hides in his hooded sweatshirt is going to pick this book up and recognize something about himself in there and maybe that will allow him to reach out to some other stories and think about literature as a place to go to learn and grow. I mean, I just want my boys to be better. I want them to be happier, I want them to understand themselves and forgive themselves for some of the idiotic things we do as boys growing up.”
But Kass says these stories are for everyone. He wants girls and women to read the book, too. In fact he’d love to see this book go to high schools and colleges everywhere, and inspire conversations and of course, more reading. “Knuckleheads” by Jeff Kass will be released Thursday, March 31, 7 p.m. at The Neutral Zone in Ann Arbor.