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The Author, Specialist, Knowledge (ASK) Program

The purpose of the program is to take readers beyond the confines of a novel, relating the information from their reading in a personal way to their own self or situation. As part of the process, readers draw on their own writers' voice, as they journal through their reading. Interviews are conducted with authors of children's books and with "specialists" whose occupations, interests and experiences bring credibility or a better understanding to a particular literature selection.

The 2023 – 2024 distance learning schedule.

Registration for any of these programs can be done at www.misd.net/dl with a user friendly drop down menu process.

The ASK Program, (Authors Specialist, and Knowledge), provides students with the opportunity to ask questions to an author or a educational subject specialist in the topic they are reading about in the novel. The program uses excellent literature, journal writing and interviewing via interactive video conferencing to promote reading for a deeper understanding, comprehension and text to self.

The ASK program (Authors, Specialist, and Knowledge) developed by Dr. Raymond Kettel from the University of Michigan-Dearborn. This ASK process is to take readers beyond the confines of a novel, relating the information from their reading in a personal way to their own immediate situation. As part of the process, readers draw on their own writers' voice, as they journal through their reading.

Interviews are conducted with authors of books or with "specialists" whose occupations, interest and experiences bring credibility or a better understanding to a particular literature selection. The interview focus from these books has been on such social issues as Michigan History, Mysteries, Historical Fiction, Government, Informational, Weather & Science, the Vietnam War, Racial Prejudice and Fun books to get students to read. In addition to these subjects, through interviewing authors, readers are able to explore such evaluative literary aspects as the development of character, plot, setting, theme and writing style.

Recently, most of the interviews have been conducted using interactive video conferencing / distance learning technology, connecting authors and specialists with sites in the Macomb Intermediate School District area and is free to all teachers wishing to participate in these fun and educational programs.

Please Note: The Author, Specialist, and Knowledge program allows students to ask questions to the author of a book or an area specialist(s) in the subject of the book. You should follow the ASK Process steps in which you can review the steps or watch the ASK video provided in your kit. Classes that follow this process do a much better job with the interview then students who just read the book and make up questions.

Who Will the Students ask questions to?  You may not be asking questions to the author of the book. (See the “Information about the Specialist” or “Information about the Author” tab in the teacher resource notebook/packet you receive with the books) It will contain information about the author or educational specialist the students will be asking questions to. It also contains background information about the organization that the specialist is representing.

Additional Resources  The notebook has supplemental lesson plans, activities, web and video resources, background information on the subject of the book along with newspaper clippings or other items of interest. A video or poster may also accompany the books. These supplemental materials are only supplemental. It is up to you whether or not these items are appropriate for your students and curricular goals.

Before you register you should read the program descriptions that is below as well as the guidelines.

Please read the following carefully before you register:

  • An ASK session is designed for one classroom of students (30-35 students). We will be connecting a maximum of three classes per session to the program. Most of the programs are one hour long. The three classes will ask questions in an "round robin" fashion until time runs out or the students are out of questions.

  • Each teacher should complete their own individual registration. This is very important so that when the materials are shipped, you will receive them directly to save time. The author/specialist is also given a schedule of what teachers participates at what time so that they know who they are connecting with.

  • You should review the book. To obtain a copy of the book for review contact Denise Jobe at DJobe@misd.net.

  • You must use e-mail if you wish to participate in this program. That is the way we will confirm your participation, send reminders and contact you.

  • ASK Programs are free to you but they are not free. The MISD pays a fee to our authors and specialists. Therefore cancellation after the materials have been shipped to you will result in your school being assessed a $40.00 fee. You will be notified by a "reminder" e-mail before the materials are to be shipped with withdrawal instructions, if we don't hear from you then we assume you are participating in the program and materials will be shipped to you. It is important to note we want your participation, not your money. We usually have a waiting list for these programs.

Registrations are on a first come first serve basis.

I will delete duplicate requests so please do not register for another teacher unless you put in their name and email address.

READ YOUR EMAILS CAREFULLY!! Yes, sometimes you will be put on the waiting list or rejected for a program. Do not assume that you have been confirmed for the program! PLEASE read your emails.

Check your school Calendar. You will be charged a $40.00 fee if materials were sent to you then you have to cancel from the program or do not participate on the date of the program.

Encourage students to move beyond basic reading comprehension. Get them to tie what they are reading to their own lives and experiences, self to text.



The following quotations are from an article “Responding to Literature Through Student–Author Interviews” written by Dr. Danielle DeFauw, University of Michigan, Dearborn.

• Readers use critical questions to explore the author’s choices and findings related to the literature and how readers develop text-world connection.

• Reading addresses how students respond to texts emotionally and intellectually.

• Through a critical reader-response, students read beyond the words. They read with an unwillingness to be swayed by text without contemplating their own reading of the world and being moved to action.

• Readers created the text-world, or mental representation of what they read.

• For literature to impact students’ commitment to social justice, characters’ emotions must infiltrate readers’ hearts. Young adult literature invites readers to walk in a character’s shoes and feel empathy for the character and, in effect, the human condition (Cart, 2019).

• Reading for students to infiltrate their minds and hearts to question, to challenge, and to feel.

• Young adult literature and student–author interviews create space for students to question and respond deeply to text, so deeply that their minds are challenged and their hearts are changed.

Supporting students questioning for the ASK Program, teacher Prompts:
1. Write a response, not a summary. Anyone who reads the book knows what’s in the book. Write your reactions to what you have read.
2. From your reactions, create questions that will put the author in a position to explain why they wrote the book the way they did.
3. There are two restrictions to these questions: (1) If the answer can be found in the book, you cannot use the question. (2) The answer must require an explanation; thus, you cannot ask simple yes or no questions.
Permission was granted from Dr. DeFauw to quote sections of her article.

Recommended Citation
DeFauw, D. L., Crowe, C., & Burnett, C. (2022). Responding to Literature Through Student–Author Interviews: Eighth-Grade Students Challenge Chris Crowe’s Mississippi Trial, 1955. Reading Horizons: A Journal of Literacy and Language Arts, 61 (1). Retrieved from https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/reading_horizons/vol61/iss1/2

The Literature Based Interview Process by Dr. Raymond Kettel, University of Michigan-Dearborn. Dr. Kettel's Original Concept of the ASK Process.

Read the book. For elementary school age students it may be helpful if you read the book to the class while your students read along. You can start with a book your class reads every year, a new book, or a classic. 

Please Note: For the MISD ASK distance learning program there is background information about the author or specialist whom the students will be interviewing that will be in the teacher resource packet/notebook you will be receiving with the books.   

Keep a journal. When you have finished reading for the day, you and your students should individually write down your thoughts. It might be a scene that you can identify with, or an idea that you care about. It might be an event that upsets you or a passage that piques your curiosity. Respond to a part of the story that makes you laugh, makes you cry, makes you want to keep reading. Don't summarize a segment, but tell how it makes you feel. Enter the world of voice journaling.  It is very important that the teacher model read, journal, and question writing for their students. Share an entry from your journal. Tell them a question you would ask. Modeling what you expect from your students will help your students in their journal entries. As students journal they should look for connections:

Self to Text: Connects of the text to their life. Have they or someone they know had a similar experience.

Text to Information: Have the students read about this topic previously. Have they seen a movie about this.

Another way to help students with their journal entries is to write some entries as a whole group. Below are examples of whole group journal entries done by Ms. Burnett's class, Mt. Clemens Middle School that read the book "Bud, Not Buddy" by Christopher Paul Curtis.

Images will open in new window:

Journal Example 1 

Journal Example 2

Journal Example 3

Write questions. When you have finished reading the book and made your final journal entries, it will be time to start writing questions. Students should write the chapter and page number that corresponds with each question. By reviewing their journal entries, the students should be able to write questions about those parts of the story that most interested them. The purpose of this exercise is to better understand the story. If you are working with younger students you may wish to encourage them to write questions for each journal entry. Also, you may wish to review what types of questions are appropriate.

Show examples. As the teacher, you should also write some questions and show them to the students so that they can see how it should be done. Try to show connections between the text and yourself or real life. Explain why you are asking the question. What are you trying to learn?

Review the rules for questions.

The answer is not in the book. The question can not be answered with a yes or no answer. The questions should start with... In the book..... On page...... In chapter....

Place the students in pairs and encourage them to select their best four questions. Each pair should select only four questions that will be presented to the class. They should look for the questions they want to ask and questions they think other students won't ask.

Conduct a round robin elimination process. When your students have selected their best four questions, ask each group to read their questions to the class. Eliminate duplicate questions among the groups. This is a good time for you to indicate which questions need to be edited and which questions are in final form.

Revise the questions. When the elimination process is completed, each student should have at least one unique question to ask in the interview. It is okay if the question has been rewritten to include aspects of duplicates that were eliminated. It is better if each student has three questions if you are connecting with another class. That way if the other class asks the first question, they will have another question to ask for a backup.

Place the questions in order. Based on the chapter and page number of each question, place the questions in order so that the interview is being conducted, the class and the author are essentially working through the book. 

Conduct a practice session. Have each student stand and read his or her question in a confident manner. This is very important. This practice session will prepare the students to interview the author or expert. Depending on your distance learning set-up most students will move to a microphone and ask their question. We highly recommend that students not sit on the floor during the interview, auditorium type seating is most appropriate for the students.

Conduct the Interview. One the day of the interview, introduce the author/expert to the class. During the ASK program from the MISD the introduction will be made for you by our host at the MISD. Each student should stand and ask his or her question so that the guest can see and hear the student clearly.  The students should remain standing until his/her question is answered, say thank you, and then return to his/her seat. The author or specialist is your guest. You should request that your students dress as if they were expecting an important guest in their home.  Also remind students of proper behavior. Sitting up, listening carefully, being attentive, saying thank you, etc. Remember the students will be seen at the other sites (schools) and you want your students to give a good representation of you and your school.

Debrief after the interview. Take some time the day after the interview to review and debrief with the students. Ask them what they learned and what they liked about the interview. Some of the interviews may be very emotional. It is important for the students to have time to discuss not only what happened, but how they felt about it. You may want to discuss how your students' questions compared to the other students' questions. What was the best question they heard asked? What questions surprised them the most? What was the worst question and why? What would they like to ask if they could ask another question?

Write a letter of thanks to the author/specialist. The last step in the Project ASK process is having your students write thank you notes to the author or specialist. This could be done in the form of cards, letters, or drawings done as a class or individually. The bottom line of this assignment is teaching the students manners and the value of a “Thank You” that can be an educational lesson in appreciation and letter writing along with enforcing the appreciation for other’s time and effort that was given for such an learning experience. And yes, timeliness is always important when writing a thank-you note.

Cross-curricular extensions. Teachers should of course relate the literature selection to other curricular areas they wish to include such as the arts, creative or expository writing, poetry, mathematics, science, sports, social studies, etc. Poetry is an excellent way for students to express feelings about emotional topics. Community Projects - topics like the homeless, domestic violence and others are an excellent way to get your students involved in a community project. Be sure to check in the teacher resource notebook you receive with the books to see some lessons, activities, web resources or supplemental information about the author, the book or subject of the book.

A fun way for student to engage in the distance learning program is to have them dress or act the part. For example with the program "Journey Back to Lumberjack Camp" students can wear flannel, have paper mustaches, talk lumberjack slang, or even eat pancakes in the classroom. Most of the books used in the ASK program has a theme so have fun with it and enjoy! 

Janie Lynn Panagopoulos http://www.jlpanagopoulos.com/

Arthur Brood's web page "The Mud Hole" and "The Snow Car"
http://www.mudholebook.com/ and http://www.thesnowcar.com/

Darien Belcher Jr. (young inspiring author) "The Story of the Curse"  https://thestoryofthecurse.bigcartel.com/ 

Renee Hand's web page for the Crypto Capers & Joe-Joe Nut Series books http://www.reneeahand.com/

Lori Taylor "HOLLY WILD: The Young GeEK's Guide to Getting Outside" http://loritaylorart.com/ 

Robert A. Lytle web page about his Mackinac Passage Series books and his other books http://robertalytle.weebly.com/ 

Sue Stauffacher http://www.suestauffacher.com/

Amy Young "Belinda the Ballerina" series and "The Mud Fairy"  http://amyyoungart.com/

Margaret Willey http://www.margaretwilley.com/

Laurie Keller "Scrambled States" books and "Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners"   http://www.lauriekeller.com/

Sue Collins Thoms "Cesar Takes a Break"  http://www.susancollinsthoms.com/

Dana Lehman "Adventures at Walnut Grove" and "I Double Dare You" and "I Can Do It" books  http://lehmanpublishing.com/author.php

Ginger Hodge "When Donkey's Fly"  http://whendonkeysflybook.com/

Cheri Hallwood "Winter's First Snowflake", "One Wish for Winifred Witch" and "Frogwilla: A Treefrog's Story"   http://www.foreveryoungpublishers.com/

Chris Crowe "Mississippi Trial, 1955" and "Just As Good: How Larry Doby Changed America's Game" http://chriscrowe.com/ 

Jim Stovall "The Ultimate Gift"   http://www.jimstovall.com/

Lisa Wheeler "Old Cricket"  http://www.lisawheelerbooks.com/LW/home.html

Denise Brennan-Nelson "Willow", and "Leopold the Lion" http://www.denisebrennannelson.com/books/

Johnathan Rand  American Chiller and Michigan Chiller books http://www.americanchillers.com/

Karen Bell-Brege "Mick Morris Myth Solver #1: All Isn't Well in Roswell!" http://monstermyths.com/

The Buffalo Zoo http://www.buffalozoo.org/ for Polar Bear, Animals in Winter, Cool Summer Tail

National Weather Service - Pontiac/Detroit Office http://www.weather.gov/dtx/office3 for "Night of the Twisters"

Vietnam Veteran's Memorial http://www.thewall-usa.com/ "The Wall" we use a Vietnam veteran for this program

Author of "The Breadwinner" http://deborahellis.com/ but we use a Afghanistan Refugee for this program. 

"Melvin Fargo Writes to Argue and Persuade" by Lisa Rivard http://lisarivardbooks.com/about.html   

Troy Stage Nature Center for the book "The Book of North American Owls"  https://troynaturesociety.org/ 

Leslie Science & Nature Center affliated with the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum for the book "Stellaluna" https://www.lesliesnc.org/outreach 

For the Love of Books

Accelerated Reader: Searching for Accelerated Reader books is fun and easy with this free online tool. http://www.arbookfind.com/UserType.aspx

 If one of the ASK program books does not have a AR Quiz you can suggest the book to have one at http://www.renaissance.com/customer-center/suggest-quizzes

The Lexile Measurement: Matching Readers with Texts https://www.lexile.com/

Michigan Authors, Illustrators & New Books! Some of the finest children's literature in the country is created by Michiganders!

Great Lakes Great Books from Michigan Reading Association