Author Sam Bracken had a unique chance to speak with hundreds of Ben Davis High School students during the school’s annual Student Literacy Conference.
The conference is planned by BDHS media specialist Kathy Hicks-Brooks. She normally gets one author to talk to students. This year she was able to welcome seven well-known authors who specialize in adolescent literature.
“It was on my bucket list to put together a really big conference,” Hicks-Brooks said. “So I wrote some grants and got them all.”
Authors who attended the conference March 13 were Sharon Flake, Angela Johnson, Mike Mullin, Sam Bracken, Saundra Mitchell, and Jay Asher. Geoff Herbach joined the conference via Skype.
Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz also attended the conference to introduce Bracken.
“I’m a library media specialist,” Ritz said. “Reading has been a big part of my life.”
She encouraged the students to think about what they want to do in the future and be purposeful when choosing activities and summer jobs.
“And get those literacy skills,” Ritz said. “Reading allows you to go and do what you want to do. There is a difference in people who can read and those that do read.”
During one of the main sessions, Bracken grabbed the attention of the students and faculty by telling the story of how he grew up.
“When I was born, I was a product of rape,” he said. “I was unwanted.”
He read from his book, My Orange Duffel Bag, and the students listened as he moved through the years of his young life.
“When I was 5 someone poured lighter fluid on my arm and lit me on fire,” Bracken said. “My mom moved us to Las Vegas and she married Leroy Bracken. As I practiced how to write my new name, I was abused. Most of the time I didn’t know why I was beaten.”