Driving Toward Literacy Engineered By Noteworthy Female Authors: J. K. Rowling, Stephanie Meyers and E.L. James, Suzanne Collins and Veronica Roth, Whose Words Are Relatable As They Touch The Lives Of Urban Communities, Particularly Children Of Color

Literacy rates are a major issue in the United States. Being a teacher and woman of color, this issue particularly is of issue in the classrooms I teach in, on a regular basis. I work with diverse students at-risk and the low literacy rates actually cost quite a bit, (the Health Policy Institute, 2018 reports $73 million), per year in health care costs. I am an advocate of diversity in writing and authorship. I celebrate the path that women authors are now taking. A number of female authors’ stories have reached minority communities and their readers. I speak by experience, students and their parents are reading the stories written by these authors: J. K. Rowling, Stephanie Meyers and E.L. James, Suzanne Collins and Veronica Roth. These authors have been able to reach across the color isle to many students of color.

Being in the classroom is all about reaching the distracted learner, and in fact, these women have taken the literary main stage by storm. Students are running to read these author’s popular stories. Being a woman and a writer, I am particularly moved by the creation of large-scale franchises born in the mind of female authors. I am referencing the creations of J. K. Rowling, Stephanie Meyers and E. L. James, Suzanne Collins and Veronica Roth. These authors may not be familiar to you but their stories probably ring a resounding bell in your head. The Harry Potter series, the Twilight series, and the Fifty Shades of Grey series, the Hunger Games series and the Divergent series, most likely are somewhat familiar to you, unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock for the last ten to twenty years.

What is particularly heartfelt about J. K. Rowling is the humble beginnings of which she overcame by the blockbuster success of the Harry Potter fantasy children’s novels. Rowling wrote seven books in her series that sold hundreds of millions of copies. This laid the groundwork for the fantastical success of the film franchise that was later to come. Everything about the beginnings of this story represent the fantastical! Rowling married, got pregnant and gave birth after her divorce. Struggling to get by, she left Portugal where she was teaching to be close to her sister back in Scotland. Struggling to get back and living on public assistance, Rowling worked on her book idea, which is reported to have occurred while traveling by train from Manchester to London in 1990.

What is most fantastical is the caliber of J. K. Rowling’s success

Upon the Summer of the year 2000, the three first Harry Potter novels: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban brought in almost $480 million in sales over three years, from more than 35 million copies in print in 35 languages distributed around the world. In fact, by July of 2000, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’s first printing ran off over five million copies and an additional advance of book orders of more than 1.8 million. The fifth book in the Harry Potter series:  Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix had a postponed release date, hitting bookstores in June of 2003. The sixth book in the series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, sold nearly 7 million copies in the United States within the first 24 hours of its release. It was the largest opening in publishing history. Prior to the release of the seventh book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, in the Harry Potter series, (July 2007 book release date), it was the biggest ever pre-ordered book at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores, and at Amazon.com. No wonder Rowling is touted as Britain's 13th wealthiest woman— she has been referenced to as being wealthier than even the Queen, but not actually. Not when taken into account the Crown Estates, which is the real estate portfolio of the Royal Family, worth about $11 Billion in US currency.

Stephanie Meyers and her Twilight book series

Then along came Stephanie Meyers with her own teen lore vampire world of Twilight. Meyers did something original. She changed the classic style of vampires into her own version of pop culture. These creatures of the night were no longer restrained to living in the world of night. They walk and live amongst the mortals and glisten in the sunlight to boot. Meyers took a familiar genre and put her own spin on her storytelling and the result is reported as achieving an amazing record of 100 million sales of her four book series: Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn, which have been translated into 39 different languages. Her success speaks for itself. Meyers’ books spent 143 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list, and the first movie in "The Twilight Saga" grossed $380 million at the box office.

E. L. James and Fifty Shades of Grey in the midst of the #MeToo Movement

E. L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey series books is credited with being the most successful series of books ever published and at one point occupied the top e-book sales position of No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 all at once. Barnes and Noble’s CEO has credited the sales success of these books in keeping the lights on in their stores that might have otherwise been forced to close. And Stephen King specifically reported that the success of the franchise owes a lot to the “good” writing of the sex scenes. They clearly pull you into the story. James touched on all of the sensitive areas of fantasy for women especially between the ages of 45-55. For all of the criticism that these books have received because of their popularity in the midst of the #MeToo movement, (women’s action campaign against sexual harassment and assault), there are many in the world of BDSM that feel, the stories are really about a women’s ability to give herself permission to seek out her own sexuality and experiment in areas of sexual fantasy as they might not have done so in the past. Why can’t women have the kind of sexual fantasy that men found in The Wolf of Wall Street? Men made no apologies for their desire and enthusiasm of the book and the film, so women can also embrace their own fun and excitement in the same sexual fantasy of story.

Suzanne Collins - Hunger Games author

Making her mark as a New York Times bestselling author in children’s literature is Suzanne Collins, with her Underland Chronicles series written for middle school grade readers. This Hunger Game series, hit the New York Times as a bestseller in September 2008 and like J. K. Rowling, her books appealed to both teen and adult readers. She received rave reviews by both Stephen King in Entertainment Weekly, describing her writing as “addictive” and by Stephenie Meyers as an “amazing” writer. Her accolades did not stop there. She earned the New York Times Notable Book of 2008 and the New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice.

Her writing continued to score high with the additional release of Catching Fire in September of 2009, which was the second book in The Hunger Games trilogy. This book premiered at No. 1 on the USA Today bestseller list and simultaneously appeared at No. 1 on the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists. It was named a Time Magazine Top Ten Fiction Book of 2009, a New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice, and a People Magazine (Top 10) Best Book of 2009.

Mockingjay, released in August 2010, was the final book of the (trilogy) series and it also premiered at No. 1 on all of the national bestseller lists during its first week on sale. In fact it received a highly credited review from Publishers Weekly, which reported that it “accomplishes a rare feat, the last installment being the best yet, a beautifully orchestrated and intelligent novel that succeeds on every level.” Suzanne Collins was placed on the TIME 100 list of “the world's most influential people” in April of 2010. An accomplishment held in high regard by the world of writers around the globe.

Veronica Roth - Divergent author

Veronica Roth’s writing success is both unusual and unlikely as her journey to literary stardom happened pretty fast. Her novel, Divergent, premiered and it’s resultant sales landed her on the bestselling list of the New York Times at the early age of 22.

Roth is a Young Adult (YA) author who earned an estimated $25 million in 2015, which is a staggering increase of $8 million over 2014 tying her in third place with the indomitable author listing of Danielle Steel. In fact in 2014, the Divergent trilogy sold almost 4 million units. These sales received a noted lift due to the release of the second film, Insurgent in the spring of 2015, aiding in the final credited gross sales of $295 million globally. It’s nice to see female authors ceasing the stage like this and reaching even young audiences and marketplaces of color.

Why do I care about the success of Rowling, Meyers, James, Collins and Roth?

Working in the classroom of urban communities, these children are often uninterested in the “literary classics” of literature, simply because they cannot relate to a world without color. They live in different environments where the struggle to find housing and food is very real. The picturesque world filled with white picket fences and a mother and father in the home, providing for their children’s’ basic survival needs is unreal and unrelatable. Both male and female students of diversity feel this encumbrance. Specifically, young women of color have extreme challenges to overcome. They need role models. These female authors have written stories that have reached them, and it has motivated them to set goals and pursue their own ambitions where they might not have any before.

Integrating Technology
Into The Classroom
new media Curriculum

In an attempt to reach this diverse and challenged young audience, I have co-written a curriculum with a longtime educator, Steve P. Jefferson, Ed. D., entitled: Integrating Technology Into The Classroom. Wonderfully, my mentor and long time collaborator, Chas. Floyd Johnson, Executive Producer of the top-rated NCIS TV Series has written the foreword and Jefferson and I have included much media from his 40-year career in Hollywood. This along with the likes of Moctesuma Esparza, accredited and award winning Producer of Introducing Dorothy Dandridge and Selena and the creative projects of Henry Louis Gates, Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise. The vision of this curriculum is to reach these students because they can see circumstances and situations they can relate to.

Culminating Conclusion on Literacy and the Writings of Rowling, Meyers, James, Collins and Roth

Riley Rose at Girls Scout meeting discussing her Vela Kurv superhero book
Riley Rose with Girl Scouts
discussing her
Vela Kurv
superhero book.

Creating whole new worlds no longer belongs squarely upon the shoulders of men. Women continue to make their mark in the world of Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fiction and Romance. Women can read from the perspective of the female disposition because of the likes of J. K. Rowling, Stephanie Meyers, and E. L. James, Suzanne Collins and Veronica Roth. These author names are no longer virgin to our ears and that is precisely the point. These female writers have large loyal audiences that embrace their stories. The success of these authors is both motivating and moving for the world of women and for everyone living on the planet. It is well past the due date for women to receive the global impact of this type of book series success and I for one have embraced their contribution and extreme ranking of accomplishment. They have banged out their own branding. Congratulations, ladies! All hail to these chiefs of creation. I can’t wait to see, who’s next in the mega world of book series success. Please serve me up, another dish of female originality and keep it a-comin!



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