Finding a way to get adolescent boys to read may be easier than we think. It's no secret that boys often progress more slowly than girls when it comes to reading comprehension and frequency.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, adolescent females have outperformed adolescent males on reading assessments, nearly every year dating back to 1971. Author and educator Christopher Dignan would argue the reasons are more easily recognisable than we think.
'They'll watch the movie, but they won't finish the book," Dignan said. 'Why? They told me it was because the text was too long, too complex or too detailed. Boys want story and action, not boring details."
'The Chronicles of Lux Veritas" follows Solas Gambit, a teenager who lives with his dying grandmother. Upon suddenly receiving a sword named Lux Veritas from an Iroquois shaman, Solas Gambit is transported to a world of demonic purgatory, where he must instill peace.
'The story will challenge the reader to take a closer look at the merit of his own value system and what his principles are, and what he considers priorities in this mortal life, especially regarding the people we love or say we love," Dignan said.
Dignan concentrated his book on educational topics like solipsism, morals and karma. Parents need not worry that their children are learning important lessons while also being fantastically entertained. One of the biggest thrills of 'The Chronicles of Lux Veritas" is the setting; the novel takes place in purgatory.
According to Christianity, purgatory is a real and hostile environment and helps give the novel its intensity. Described as 'Harry Potter on steroids" by Dignan's own students, the novel encompasses a point of view that not only appeals to Christianity, but also adolescent boys who like action, thrills and a quick plot line.
Christopher Dignan earned a bachelor's degree from McGill University and the Université de Montréal. He is currently a teacher who enjoys reading history and philosophy. He and his wife have one son and live in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. This is his first novel.
The Chronicles of Lux Veritas
Author: Christopher Dignan
Question: What inspired you to write The Chronicles of Lux Veritas?
Christopher Dignan: I think there are two main reasons. The first was just to have fun. It's as simple as that. I did it for myself and I really enjoyed it. I love Tolkien and he has inspired me the most. The second was to entertain young readers. I am a teacher by profession and I noticed that many of my high school students loved reading fantasy books, especially the boys. But they often got tired of reading, even the stories that they loved. They'll watch the movie, but they won't finish the book. They will skip parts. Why? They told me it was because the text was either too long or too complex or too detailed (boys want story and action, not boring details). Harry Potter is for a younger audience, the Lord of the Rings can be too complex, long or wordy. So in the Chronicles of Lux Veritas I tried to create a challenging story for them that they could relate to, one that is true to their character and one that would intrigue them and keep them interested right to the end. I listened and I tried to address their concerns. Illiteracy and difficulties in reading are still very prevalent in our schools and in our society today, especially with boys. The vocabulary used in -The Chronicles of Lux Veritas' is simpler and the story is fascinating enough so that the teenage boy can relate to it, and read it to the end. In a meek and humble way, the book aims to promote reading for all but especially for teenage boys. So far the feedback has been excellent. 'Are you working on a sequel?" is the question they ask me most. The boys are on board, to be sure. It's a great way to get them to read more.
Question: What do you hope readers take away from The Chronicles of Lux Veritas?
Christopher Dignan: -The Chronicles of Lux Veritas' promotes tolerance by exposing the limits of knowledge and of value systems. The main takeaways in establishing a good value system are in learning to define oneself, in creating one's identity, and in building good character. In sum, it urges the teenage reader to take a closer look at himself or herself in a spiritual mirror, so to speak. It is humbling but it also helps the individual gain confidence and integrity. It is like taking one step back in order to move two steps forward. Here is a practical example: before bullying someone, be careful, karma is a bitch. I mean it could be. Who knows? How can you be 100 % sure? No individual system of values is infallible, even under utmost scrutiny and weighed consideration. Be tolerant and humble. Think about the potential consequences to the self. Think about your options. What defines you?
Question: How does The Chronicles of Lux Veritas differ from other books written for boys?
Christopher Dignan: First, it is an engaging and fun read, despite the underlying subject matter. Second, there is humanity and humor in this action packed adventure. My story is pure fantasy but it may seem real for anyone who believes in seeing the 'light at the end of the tunnel" before you reach the afterlife. I have called it the Wheel of Souls. People and most teenagers are fascinated by it and will relate to it (as well as a lot of the interactions and events that follow in the fantasy world I have created). In that respect, the story borrows a lot from the Christian perspective of the afterlife. Harry Potter is pure, fun fantasy; The Lord of the Rings is pure adventure and has no philosophical undertone. The Chronicles of Lux Veritas has both. Many people will find comfort in the idea of redemption, but perhaps not in the way they had anticipated. Expect the unexpected.
Question: How did you write The Chronicles of Lux Veritas to encourage boys to read?
Christopher Dignan: The Chronicles of Lux Veritas encourages boys to read in two different ways. The first is in the content of the story. It is interesting and challenging on a personal level. Boys will especially enjoy that. The reader may be led to consider the eternal questions: what is right or wrong? What is the right choice to make? Does it matter at all? They will be led to explore the relations between being and nothingness. 'To be or not to be", that is the question here (of epic proportion in the book). Shakespeare most famously touched on it through his soliloquy in Hamlet (a story of fantasy/fiction, is it not?). So which came first, the chicken or the egg?
The second addresses the reading element. Boys prefer a challenging storyline but one that is also meaningful, honest, intelligible and as easy to read as possible. They are not interested in a long-winded complex text that is filled with boring details. Let's get down to action and significant interactions.
Question: What's next for you?
Christopher Dignan: At present, I am working on the sequel. I expect it to be published around June 2014. Then, I will complete the trilogy. Later, I hope to write more fiction and perhaps dabble in different genres like drama, suspense and horror; all for the fun of it. Then, I will come back to fantasy. That is the sketchy plan for the moment.
Interview by Brooke Hunter