“I’m really not sure what I would have done without great audiobooks,” says Scott Reintgen. Learn why listening to audiobooks is his go-to classroom strategy. Plus, the audiobook producer and narrator share behind-the-scenes details from the recording of this action-packed Hear Diversity pick.
Author Scott Reintgen has spent his career teaching in diverse urban communities in North Carolina. His goal? To inspire students to love reading and writing. The hardest lesson he learned was that inspiration isn’t equally accessible for everyone. So he set out to write a novel for the “front row sleepers and back row dreamers” in his classroom. He created NYXIA, the start of a thrilling new YA sci-fi series, so his former students could see and hear themselves in a story. Look for NYXIA and more diverse listens on www.heardiversity.com.
AudioFile gave the audiobook an Earphones Award and raved, “Narrator Sullivan Jones conveys the desires, frustrations, and determination of Detroit teen Emmett Atwater as well as the tension in this fast-paced audiobook.” School Library Journal says, “Fans of the Hunger Games and the Maze Runner series will enjoy this series opener.”
A teacher’s voice reaches the breaking point about two or three times every single day.
We might arrive to a quiet building at 6:45 am—but by 7:05 there are students plunking down in our classroom, eager to talk about books they like, or stories they’re writing. Colleagues swing by to talk about this or that. And then actual classes start. It takes a little practice, but every teacher masters the projection needed to draw the attention of 35 students. We might have a lecture prepared for that day. We’ll need to go over the homework, provide new directions for an in-class assignments, or break down what Kafka really meant on that particular page of The Metamorphosis.All of these daily tasks force us to the threshold of health when it comes to our voices.
Every teacher has a favorite remedy, too. The right herbal tea. Asking students to prepare lectures. A pocket full of cough drops. Great strategies—one and all—but my favorite strategy became the audiobook. I taught Foundations classes for 9th graders. My students’ reading levels ranged from 4th to 9th grade. It doesn’t take a teacher to figure out that 20 kids at such varied reading levels—all reading a book on their own—will have them ending up in very different places after 30 minutes.
My first solution? I would read the book aloud. It was an easy and quick fix. I read fast, and with a lot of enthusiasm, so my students often felt a little more involved. And we all paced together, so no one got left behind. The perfect reading tool—until I started losing my voice.
I’m really not sure what I would have done without great audiobooks. It was in my second year of teaching that I started really implementing them. For 15-20 minutes, my students would listen to the performances of brilliant voice actors, and I’d sit in the front sipping my tea, letting my voice rest, and knowing my class was still in great hands.
So when I found out NYXIA would be in audio form, I was thrilled for any teacher who might want to use the book in their classroom. Our first task was to make sure future students and teachers would be in great hands. Enter Sullivan Jones. Listening Library sent me clips of three different actors for the role of Emmett Atwater, but it didn’t take more than a few minutes to decide that Sullivan was the right guy for the job. He brought Emmett to life in a way that no one else could, and he also brought unique voices to the cast of characters that Babel has recruited from around the world. I was already enormously proud of this book, but I truly believe that Sullivan took the work to new heights with his reading of it.
My first year of teaching was at Jordan High School in Durham, NC. It didn’t take long to figure out that this class of diverse students had trouble finding themselves in literature. As a reader and a teacher, I decided to track down the works of Jason Reynolds, Sharon Draper, and Kwame Alexander. If I were teaching in 2017, I’d be throwing copies of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and Dear Martin by Nic Stone onto my shelves. Those books are crucial spaces for our students to safely explore their lives and experiences and struggles. But beyond wrestling with the here and now, our diverse students also deserve to launch into space, and fight dragons, and conquer empires. And that was my hope with NYXIA. I wanted my students to climb aboard the Genesis 11 alongside Emmett Atwater, and truly feel like they belonged there with him.
I wrote NYXIA for the students who struggled to see themselves on the pages of books. NYXIA is their book. But maybe, just maybe, the audio version is for their teachers. A nod from one educator to another that says, “You take a break, drink some tea, and let Sullivan and I take your kids into space.”
We certainly hope both teachers and students enjoy the ride.
More praise for NYXIA:
“Narrator Sullivan Jones conveys the desires, frustrations, and determination of Detroit teen Emmett Atwater as well as the tension in this fast-paced audiobook.”
—AudioFile Earphones Award winner
“An amazing adventure of intelligence and strength, this sci-fi book presents diverse and complex characters…Fans of the Hunger Games and the Maze Runner series will enjoy this series opener.”—School Library Journal
“Fast-moving and intriguing.”—Kirkus
“A high-octane thriller…NYXIA grabs you from the first line and never lets go.”—Marie Lu, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Young Elites series