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August 3, 2004 > Adopt-An-Author


by Ceri Hitchcock-Hodgson

Imagine a school yard in which the children are buried nose-deep in novels, oblivious to the outside world, unashamed to be reading during recess. Best-selling author Steve Alten has seen such a sight and is able claim personal responsibility for it. Thanks to Alten's Adopt-An-Author program students across the country are participating in a reading revolution.

Getting involved in the Adopt-An-Author program is as easy as enter, point, and click. Teachers interested in having their classes join the program only need to log on to and register. Once they have done so, they will have access to all materials available. Books for the program can be purchased at, Barnes & Noble and Borders where teachers receive a 20% discount. The program is free to teachers and schools, paid for by Steve and his sponsors. Teachers who use Meg or any of Steve's books in the classroom receive giant shark posters and free curriculum materials and can engage in student-author correspondence, an interactive website, and classroom conference calls with the author. Students not yet involved in the Adopt-An-Author program are welcome to browse the various tutorials that Alten has provided on his website including writing tips.

Adopt-An-Author is a non-profit organization with more than 3100 teachers across the country participating. It is also used in correctional facilities and in various Adult Literacy programs. One of Alten's greatest achievements is the success of his program in schools rated "F" by state school boards. In schools such as these in which students have become disenchanted with the written word, Alten has been able to spark their interest in reading through a combination of the exciting novels, the engaging curriculum and direct contact with the book's author. Students are encouraged to e-mail the novel's author directly and to engage in discussion about the novel's content.

The idea for the groundbreaking program came to Alten in 2001 after receiving numerous emails from teenagers who had "hated reading" until they picked up his book Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror (named the #1 book for reluctant readers by the Young Adult Library Services Association). The author, who has a background in education, decided to meld his love of books and education in to a program that, he says, would encourage "reluctant readers to become engaged in reading."

Growing up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Alter was an avid reader but says looking back on his literary history the choices were extremely limited and that, "for 30 years the curriculum has been [composed] of the same books." Alten see nothing wrong with classics such as Wuthering Heights or A Tale of Two Cities but feels that young people desire new and innovative ideas in literature. Adopt-An-Author is also a chance for young people to connect with the author or authors of the book they are reading and to become more actively involved in literature.

When asked what he thought was the driving force behind Meg's success, Alten replies that he believes it is the blending of science and action that interests young readers and "hooks them".

Aside from Alten's bestsellers Meg, The Trench, Domain, and Goliath, Adopt-An-Author offers a varied selection of exciting novels sure to hook even the most reluctant reader. Under the title of "Heroic Non-Fiction" is All But My Life, by Gerda Weissmann Klein, in which she recounts her six-year ordeal as a victim of Nazi cruelty. Another title, chosen for its portrayal of positive role models, is The Three Doctors, by Doctors Sam Davis, George Kenkins, and Rameck Hunt, which tells the true story of three young men from Newark, New Jersey who make a pact to go to college together and become doctors. For young readers interested in planning their economic futures there is the personal finance book, Getting Loaded, by Peter Bielaglus.

Alten not only runs Adopt-An-Author but is the primary financial contributor, as well. Alten loves to write but more than anything he says he loves the feeling he gets from encouraging thousands of young people to pick up his books and read.

Speaking to Alten, it is obvious that his passion for education is as profound as his love for writing. When one visits his website, it is immediately evident that he cares for his readers much more than the average author. The site is filled with information for students, chat room and numerous links to other helpful sites. Among the wealth of information, Alten manages to promote his new book, Primal Waters, the third installment in the Meg series.

Eighteen years have passed since Angel, the Megalodon shark broke free of the Tanaka Lagoon and returned to the Mariana Trench. Meanwhile, Jonas Taylor-Adventurer, has become Jonas Taylor, middle-aged father of two, overwhelmed by mountains of bills and the daily strife of raising a family. But life is about to change.

A Hollywood television producer wants Jonah to join his new survival series: Daredevils. For the next six weeks, two teams of crazy daredevils on a South Pacific Ocean voyage on-board a replica of a Spanish Galleon will try to outperform one another in front of the cameras.

Jonas needs the money, and the job seems easy enough-doing color commentary. But behind the scenes, someone else is pulling the strings. And before it's over, Jonas, Terry, and Mac will again come face to face with the most dangerous creatures ever to stalk the Earth.

His next novel, The Loch, slated to debut in the summer of 2005, promises to uncover a unique scientific discovery about the legendary Scottish monster. Go to and get your own Loch webpage and view live images from Loch Ness.

In between running the Adopt-An-Author program, visiting classrooms and answering student's email, Alten still finds time to write. He recently sold his first screenplay, Stranglehold, and will soon be traveling to California to visit Hollywood. The dedicated educator that he is, Alten says he is willing to visit classrooms in California.

Teachers, if you are ready to get your students excited about reading, log on to and register.

Adopt-An-Author is free to students and teachers and is paid for by Steve and his sponsors. Anyone wishing to make a contribution to this revolutionary/important/groundbreaking program may go to for more information.

Any young adult wishing to learn more about the program can visit the site or go to for writing tips, movie trailers, fan artwork and much more.

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