A professor at the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith has co-authored a textbook for high school English classes that has quickly become a best-selling book in its field.
Dr. Melissa Whiting of Afton, Okla., professor of English and rhetoric at UAFS, co-wrote “Language and Composition: The Art of Voice” with Gilbert H. Muller, professor emeritus of English at the LaGuardia campus of the City University of New York.
The book, which was published by McGraw-Hill, is geared towards Advanced Placement English Language and Composition students in grades 9-12 and engages them in writing through a varied anthology of essays that include print, audio, visual and interactive mediums.
The book was released for school review in February of last year. Whiting said that all 400 AP Language and Composition readers and administrators received a copy of the book at a June 2013 reading. The 2013 AP summer institutes immediately began using the book, as they liked its adherence to state education standards.
“Teachers like the correlation to Common Core State Standards,” she said. “These standards are mandatory in Arkansas and Oklahoma.”
Essays collected in the textbook range from classical works by Frederick Douglas, Thomas Jefferson and Nicolo Machiavelli to contemporaries such as Barry Lopez, Sherman Alexie and Barbara Kingsolver.
David Anderson, English department chair at Hinsdale South High School in Illinois, said he enjoyed the selection of essays.
“I like the focus on more modern topics -- like technology and helicopter parenting,” he said. “I could see myself cannibalizing some of these selections for close reading analysis.”
McGraw-Hill came to Whiting in May 2012, wanting her to rewrite and add to a textbook geared towards AP Language and Composition courses. She helped add approximately 100 new essays to the book and worked on rewriting it for the last six months of 2012.
“I worked through it chapter by chapter until its completion in December of 2012,” she said. “It was a lot of work but well worth the time and effort.”
Whiting said the book has been an “unbelievable success.”
“I heard from the College Board that, with so many orders from national and international public and private schools, it has become the second best-selling book in its field,” she said. “It really has been a dream come true. The overall response to the book has been overwhelming and humbling.”
Whiting has taught at UAFS since 2004, having previously taught at Tulsa University and the University of Southern Mississippi. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Tulsa, and graduated with a doctorate in English education from the University of Oklahoma in 1995.