HURRICANE — Finding a way to inspire high school students to read, along with a little help from her husband, is what motivated Sarah Beth Bundy to get serious about finishing a young adult novel. She has now finished her third in two years.
Bundy, who also serves as the department chair for the special education department at Hurricane High School, told St. George News that while she always knew she wanted to be a teacher, it was after becoming an English teacher that she realized how many students were in need of extra help.
Wanting to better understand these students and figure out ways to support them, she decided to go back to school and get her license as a special education teacher.
Along this journey, she discovered the importance of expectations when it comes to inspiring students toward academic achievement.
“Kids reach whatever expectations you hold for them,” she said. “So if you don’t expect much, they’re not going to do much. You can’t reach every kid. As a general rule, if you hold expectations for kids, they’re going to achieve more.”
She said oftentimes, students with mild to moderate learning disabilities are so used to not being successful that by the time they get to high school they are on the verge of giving up.
“A lot of my work is to reignite the spark that they can learn and try to undo some of the years and years of self-doubt.”
It is her work with special education students that has largely informed the trajectory and scope of her novels.
The types of books Bundy has written aim toward a fifth-grade reading level, but are geared toward high school students so that they are both relatable and comprehensible.
“If you give a high school senior, who’s reading on a third to fifth-grade level … if you give them a third to fifth-grade book, they’re going to know it. They’re not going to want to read it, and they’re going to think, ‘I’m too stupid to read a real book.’ So I’m trying to write books that would interest them, but that they can handle the reading level,” she said.
In order to write on this reading level, having a clear storyline is essential.
“If you have kids who are struggling with basic semantics and reading comprehension, and you’ve got eight different storylines with multiple characters going, it’s going to be a lot more of a challenge,” she said. “A big thing with me, I’m a reader too. I’ve read hundreds of books all my life. So I have a good idea about what a book like that looks like.”
Her first two novels feature female protagonists who are in the teenaged stages of growing up, trying to figure out who they are, where they fit in society, how to like themselves “and not listening to the voices around them that don’t matter,” Bundy said.
Her latest novel “The Troubled Path” was slightly more difficult, she said, as it is told from a boy’s perspective. As a mother of three boys, she wanted to write a book for them. After writing a line, she would read it to her husband.
“And he’d be like, ‘You know, boys don’t think about stuff like that,'” she said with a laugh.
The story follows a boy who goes on a hunting trip with his family. After getting lost, the boy stumbles upon a cave in the woods and gets transported back in time to 1855. He has to find a way to get back and learns life lessons along the way.
While Bundy said she is aiming to write two books a year, she said she may come up short this year since she is having a baby in October.
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