High school teachers and home-school teachers who wish to introduce their students to Jesse Stuart have a unique teaching tool available in “A Jesse Stuart Reader,” reprinted by the Jesse Stuart Foundation in 1988.  

Originally published in 1963, the book was designed as a classroom text; it consists of 18 stories, 26 poems and excerpts from three autobiographical books — “God’s Oddling,” “The Thread That Runs So True,” and “The Year of My Rebirth.”

It is a unique and valuable text because Jesse Stuart himself made the selections and wrote introductions for each one of them. He explains what poetry meant to him, describes the circumstances of the writing and the characters in his short stories, and tells of the significance of the events related in the excerpts from his autobiographical books.

There is also an excellent analytical Foreword by Max Bogart, an experienced educator who was employed by the New Jersey State Department of Education at the time this book was first published. Bogart’s comments on the universal values displayed in Stuart’s stories of his hill people are especially useful in helping teachers provide students with a perspective for understanding Stuart’s works.  

An additional study and teaching aid is Ella DeMer’s sensibly done Commentary and Study Questions. The specific questions provided on each story, poem and biographical excerpt constitute a thorough review of the material, and they can be used by teachers to conduct class discussion.

Although this book is used primarily at the high school level, it is effective at the college level, too. Barbara Nicholls, who taught English at Ashland Community and Technical College for many years, used “A Jesse Stuart Reader” in her English 102 classes. She developed a unit called “Critical Writing About Literature.”

“A Jesse Stuart Reader” is available in softback from the JSF for $15 per copy, plus $4 for shipping and handling. For more information, contact the JSF at (606) 326-1667, email jsf@jsfbooks.com or visit jsfbooks.com.

DR. JAMES M. GIFFORD is CEO and Senior Editor of the Jesse Stuart Foundation.

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