Myers reflects on his visit to New Directions High School in Arlington, VA, commenting on the students' curiosity and good preparation.
In his book "Dope Sick," Walter Dean Myers, award-winning writer and the 2012 National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, breaks new ground and stretches the boundaries of realism to bring forth a tale of second chances, redemption, and the promise of hope. Inspired by these ideas of hope and redemption, Walter Dean Myers and AdLit.org joined forces to create The Second Chance Initiative to motivate teens to overcome life's challenge, move beyond mistakes of the past, take advantage of the second chances they are given, and make better choices in the future.
Scroll down for loads of material to lead a unit on making good choices: a Dope Sick reading guide and free online access to the first three chapters of the book; extension activities to help get kids thinking and writing about their own lives; audio podcasts and video interviews with Walter Dean Myers, who discusses his own tumultuous childhood, his approach to writing, and his reflections on a recent school visit; and resources on the social/emotional development of teens and guidance for talking to kids about a range of topics including dropping out of school, drugs, and teen pregnancy.
About Dope Sick
Lil J has lived through the layers of pain that are so difficult for inner city youngsters to transcend and has been exposed to an astonishing array of drugs. His path from "brokesick" to "dopesick" leads to a drug deal gone bad and a shot undercover cop. Lil J suddenly finds himself in an abandoned crack house with a bullet wound to the arm. He would do anything to change the last 24 hours. That possibility becomes real when he stumbles into Kelly, who is set up in front of a TV set with remote control, about to provide Lil J the opportunity to assess and confront his own existence and ultimately, a chance to change the direction of his life.
"My arm was hurting bad. Real bad. The bone could have been broken. I couldn't tell. I just knew it was hurting and swollen. I felt like just taking the gun out and throwing it away and giving up so I could get the mess over with. I opened my mouth so I wouldn't make so much noise when I breathed. Down the street I saw the patrol car was still at the corner. He had his lights flashing. I didn't know if he'd seen which way I was running or not. I knew I was too tired to keep running much more."
Get the first three chapters of Dope Sick for free! Download PDF >
Reading Guide and Extension Activities
- Download a free Dope Sick reading guide from Harper Collins!
- Myers uses pictures and photographs, particularly old photographs of African-American life, for character ideas and inspiration for his books. Students can use the same technique with this lesson plan from ReadWriteThink: Rummaging for Fiction: Using Found Photographs and Notes to Spark Story Ideas.
- Get readers thinking about their own past and present by writing letters to themselves. Students can write actual letters, or create an e-mail that will be delivered to them in the future at FutureMe.org.
- Art and music have the power to change they way we think about life. PBS Independent Lens examines the influential power of hip-hop on our culture in HIP-HOP: Beyond Beats and Rhymes. You can use this documentary to invoke discussion on the points-of-view represented in hip-hop lyrics and why, as well as the cause and effect of sexism, homophobia, and violence within the hip-hop culture.
Podcasts with Walter Dean Myers
In this AdLit.org podcast series, Walter Dean Myers discusses his childhood, his approach to writing, and the representations of minorities in young adult literature.
Download these podcasts from iTunes U and listen whenever you want!
Walter Dean Myers on a Recent School Visit
Walter Dean Myers on Writing and Race
As a teen, Myers found few books with characters who shared his own experiences as a young African-American man in Harlem. He discusses the implicit message this absence sent, as well as his own efforts to feature minority characters.
Walter Dean Myers on Magic Realism
In his new novel Dope Sick, Myers employs magic realism to show Lil J the consequences of his poor choices and to allow Lil J another chance to make better decisions.
Walter Dean Myers on the Writing Process
Myers describes his process for gathering research, distilling information, and working with his editor to create powerful stories that engage young adult readers.
Walter Dean Myers on Where the Ideas Come From
Myers discusses the personal experiences he mines for his stories: life as a foster child, growing up in Harlem, a love of basketball, high school truancy, and his service in Vietnam.
Walter Dean Myers on Pre-Writing
Walter Dean Myers shares his approach to pre-writing, including developing an interesting, solvable, problem and identifying characters with depth.