I had the pleasure of visiting the media center at Parkview High School in Gwinnett County, Georgia a couple of years ago on a Saturday. To my surprise, Mrs. Roschell Thybulle’s students waited patiently for the arrival of LA Banks. The students were overly excited and ready to discuss the books. What struck me the most, were that these students were reluctant readers. Here’s an interview with the teacher, Mrs. Thybulle, who spearheaded this event.
Can you tell me a little about yourself and your teaching experience?
I am a happily married mother of two girls. I have been teaching chemistry for 12 years and have taught in Memphis, TN, Atlanta, GA and currently teach in Tampa, FL.
When did this event take place and can you give a little background on how your students were able to convince LA Banks to visit on a Saturday morning?
It took place in January 2009. A few of my students were discussing LA Bank's last book in the Vampire Huntress series and I mentioned that she reads and responses to her fans’ email. So one of the girls emailed her and asked her if she would visit. She responded that she would love to and directed us to her publisher who helped us arrange everything. Everything worked out because she was scheduled to do an event in Atlanta that weekend.
Why do you think your reluctant readers were so captivated by Banks’ series?
I think the readers were so attracted to Bank's series because its not so much about romance but good vs. evil, and it incorporates all races, and religions.
Do you like reading LA Banks’ series and if so, why?
Yes, her books are easy to relate to, even though its fiction. She does her research on all her books and all the background information (such as military strategies, languages, etc.) is all real. She uses current events to pull you into the book and it makes you feel like it could be happening.
Do you think that Banks’ adult series is a little racy for high school students and if so, how did you handle that in the reading group?
No, I don't believe its anymore racy than what the students watch on T.V. but in a reading group before any book, we discuss what the book might entail and whether some students may be uncomfortable with that material. And, we also remind students that fiction is not hardly as grand as books or television make it seem.
Would you like to share what you remember about that Saturday discussion and if there was anything that stood out to you that you feel people should know?
My favorite part of the discussion was that LA Banks explained to the students how she started her career. She had to quit her job because her daughter was hurt and she needed to stay home and take care of her, but her job wouldn't allow it. So, she began freelancing and wrote for an Essence magazine short story contest. What she wrote was so good that her friends started sending her story to publishers without her knowledge.
Did LA Banks treat your students specially?
Absolutely! She was running late for her next engagement but stayed as long as we wanted her too and signed every book the girls brought and answered every question. On top of all of that, one of the students had been shot by a stray bullet and was hospitalized at the time of the visit. So, she called her and talked to her in the hospital and corresponded with her through emails.
Did LA Banks continue to communicate with your students after the visit?
Yes, she sent a personalized letter, emails, and gifts for the students.
Have you seen LA Banks’ new series for teens? It’s the Neteru academy series.
Do you believe that African-American high school students would read more paranormal stories if more authors wrote novels for them?
Yes, I think students would like more books to include images of them which is easier for them to relate.
Do you have anything else that you’d like to share?
Yes, the students after the Vampire Huntress series also read her Crimson Moon series and loved it as well.
Thanks so much for the interview. I’m glad that you shared your experience!
Thanks for asking Alicia, this was one of my best experiences as a high school teacher.
Has anyone else had a similar experience with LA Banks? Also, let us know what you think about our chat with Mrs. Thybulle.
L A Banks: http://www.leslieesdailebanks.com/
Check out the Neteru Academy: http://neteruacademy.com/na/intro.html