An Interview with Sean McCartney: Coming off the Bench for Reluctant Readers!

Jul 21, 2011 by

Michael F. Shaughnessy
Eastern New Mexico University
Portales, New Mexico

1. Sean, as I recall you used to play for the Washington Generals against the Harlem Globetrotters. What was that like?

Playing for the Washington Generals was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I was able to travel around the world and play basketball and get paid for it. It was always a dream to travel and to be able to do it in such a way, at a young age made me really appreciate the whole thing.

2. Now it seems you are coming off the bench to encourage reluctant readers. How did that come about?

I started to get really concerned when I saw many of my students without books to read for fun. Mainly, the boys did not have books. When I pressed on, I got answers like ‘I hate reading’ to ‘It’s no fun’ and I was floored. I began to think I could help in this effort to change their perception of reading by creating a new series.

3. Sean, how do you define a “reluctant reader”?

I view a ‘reluctant reader’ as someone who is afraid of reading. Maybe they aren’t very good at it or maybe they don’t realize that with practice the ability to read and read well will open so many more doors for them.

4. There are some people that say there is no such thing as a reluctant reader, but rather, over-extended and stress out kids. What do you say?

I think we, as parents and educators, allow them to be ‘stressed out’ because we know what it’s like to be that way. If we never told the kids about it they wouldn’t know about ‘being stressed’ and all that nonsense. I had a conversation with a man in his seventies who worked on a farm after school. I told him that must have been hard and tough on him and he shrugged and said, “No one ever told me it was so I figured it was just something I did after school.”

5. What is this Treasure Hunters Club series all about?

The Treasure Hunters Club is about Tommy Reed and his treasure hunting club friends Shannon McDougal, Chris Henderson and Jackson Miller. They all long to be like Tommy’s famous treasure hunting uncle “Diamond” Jack Reed. I wanted a series that showed ordinary kids doing extraordinary things and not because they were a wizard or demi-god or dragon rider but because they were smart and used common sense.

6. What is Breaking the Beale code all about? History? Math? Or espionage?

Simple answer is yes, all of those things. Just kidding. This is the second book in the Treasure Hunters Club series and it is about the Club having to break a 200-year-old code that protects $30 million is gold to help save a friend from an old enemy out for revenge.

7. I understand that you are now a middle school teacher- do you still coach basketball or coach kids to read?

Basically teach kids about reading.

8. Who are the protagonists of your Treasure Hunters Club and what are they like?

The main characters are the Club members Tommy Reed, Shannon McDougal, Chris Henderson and Jackson Miller. They are much like kids I grew up with and I have tried to model them after ‘regular’ kids.

9. Who is this Thomas Jefferson Beale and where in the world is he?

Thomas Jefferson Beale is an adventurer and explorer who went out to Santa Fe in the early 1820’s and brought back to Virginia millions of dollars of gold and silver. He decided to hide it and created codes for the location of the treasure. Why he did this no one knows but my book helps give you and idea.

10. A lot of teachers bemoan the short attention span of certain kids, but I have found a good book is a good book and if it is a good book-(like the Harry Potter or Vampire series) kids are going to read it. Your thoughts?

I am glad you brought this up because I have been criticized because my books jumps around from scene to scene and people have trouble keeping up, but I never hear that from my younger fans. They like the pace because they think like that and it helps them continue on to the next part to see what happens.

11. Your books seem to have both a historical, a moral and an educational perspective- was this intentional?

Yes, absolutely. I wanted a series that teachers would not be worried about to use in their classroom and it had a lot of material for them to use. As a teacher I have found the students sometimes learn best when they think they aren’t learning anything and you sneak it in on them. The other idea is the friendship among these kids is real and lasting. They count on each other and I think that comes through in the stories. Tommy makes the statement at the end of the first book, “I’ve got great friends,” and he does.

12. Some of your work discusses stereotypes- why do you think this relevant?

In some ways, you can’t get away from stereotypes, especially in stories. There is a bully in the series because that is an issue in school today just like it was years ago. What I think has changed is the stereotypes of the students. Shannon is just as strong, maybe even stronger, than the guys in the Club and they count on her for protection sometimes. She is not someone who cowers but is assertive in a Nancy Drew way.

13.  I am not sure I would have made it through high school without music class and through college (Mercy College in the PCAC) without basketball- how big an influence was basketball in your high school and college days?”

Basketball has played the biggest part in my life because it taught me everything that goes into having a dream and working toward it. The time, energy and practice it takes to be a good basketball player is no different than being a good writer or musician…and you still might not be the best because there is always someone better. I tell my students all the time that success doesn’t happen by chance – you’ve got to put the work into it or nothing will happen.

14. Where can reading teachers and regular Ed teachers get a copy of your book? DO you have a web page?

Well, since Borders is going out of business the best place to get the book is Amazon. Teachers will also find free downloadable Teacher Guides on the web site at www.treasurehuntersclubbook.com that are aligned to the new National Standards. On the site there are also videos that can be used in class to help teach the books.

15. What have I neglected to ask?

It seems we have covered a lot of ground, but I do want to say one thing to teachers looking for a series of books for students that might be intimidated by the large Harry Potter or Percy Jackson books. Try the Treasure Hunters Club. It is good, fast paced and fun read.

Thanks for talking with me.

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