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Real Success Stories to Reach Reluctant Readers with the Real Justice series

April 2nd, 2013 by Kendra Martin

As a children's & teen book editor, I'm always looking for new ways to help you strategically reach reluctant readers through high-interest topics and accessible writing. And I truly love hearing real classroom stories about resources and methods that work! I recently met junior high school teacher Janelle White who shared her success story about using Real Justice: Fourteen and Sentenced to Death to engage her grade 7/8 classroom of reluctant readers. I hope that her story inspires you with practical ideas tactics for incorporating Real Justice books into your lesson plans and classroom activities! Carrie Gleason, Associate Publisher — Children & Teens


Q: How did you use Real Justice to get your reluctant readers engaged?

Janelle White, Grade 7/8 TeacherA: Janelle White, Grade 7/8 Teacher:

As a grade 7/8 teacher, I am constantly trying to find ways and activities to engage and interest my students in literacy – especially reading. I have many reluctant readers in my room and face the challenge of getting them to read every day. When I saw the book Real Justice: Fourteen and Sentenced to Death – The Story of Steven Truscott in our school library, I thought this might be just what my students need to become interested – and I was right! I read the story to the class as a read aloud and all students were instantly engaged. Their engagement didn’t just exist in terms of listening to the story, but they were also becoming active participants in their learning by asking questions, sharing the story with individuals at home, wanting to learn more, and even becoming upset when I was going to stop reading. We wrote journal entries on each chapter, had classroom discussions, created a “Facebook” page in the role/perspective of Steven, and watched video clips from CBC News: The Fifth Estate. I have purchased the rest of the books from the “Real Justice” series for our class library and will continue to use them in my classroom to engage all students. “Real Justice” books encourage the students to want to read because of their true stories about young Canadians who were wrongfully convicted, mysterious appeal, and the ability to make connections to the books. I would highly recommend any teachers (especially in the intermediate grades) to use these books to engage their learners, spark discussion, and create a love and interest for reading.

Janelle White
Grade 7/8 Teacher


Student Reviews by Janelle White’s grade 7/8 class on Fourteen and Sentenced to Death


The book Real Justice: Fourteen and Sentenced to Death was positively amazing. When my class was reading it, I had missed hearing some of the book sadly, but from the parts that I heard our teacher read, I could almost feel the emotion behind Steven Truscott’s case. I loved the fact that they chose to put Steven’s case into a book so people could learn more about it. The book was dramatic and made me feel intrigued with the story and gave me the ability to imagine what Steven felt in his situation. Overall it was an amazing book and made me want to read the other books in the series to learn more about it.
Somer C, 13

My grade 7/8 class enjoyed this book because it’s a true story about a boy who got sent to prison for something he didn’t do. I think this book is great for our age level because Steven was in grade 8 and I am in grade 8. I think the author did an amazing job writing this book because they told the story of a boy’s hard life from start to finish. I can’t wait to read the other “Real Justice” books.

Jesse B, 14


In my grade 8 class, we read Real Justice: Fourteen and Sentenced to Death. I think it was a really good book because I can imagine myself in his place – getting accused for something that I didn’t do. I like how it was a true story and it happened to someone my age and in my grade. I felt a lot of emotions reading this book, like sadness because he was sentenced to death at a young age and happiness because in the end they found out he didn’t kill Lynne Harper. I would recommend this book to other students in my grade because it’s appropriate for my age group and it’s easy to understand. This book inspired me to want to read more about Steven Truscott and the other “Real Justice” books. It also made me realize that I should be happy to be here in class getting my education, as opposed to being in jail and not able to live my life like a normal teenager.
Breanna C, 13

In my class, my teacher read us the book Real Justice: Fourteen and Sentenced to Death. It was a very good book and at some parts of the book, it even left me on the edge of my seat! What I really enjoyed was that at times you thought you could predict what was going to happen but then something else happened instead of what I thought. I was very impressed with this book. I plan on reading the rest of the series and would recommended it to other students and teachers too.
Alexander K, 13

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