By Matt Fernandez
Signal Staff Writer
Reading is an essential part of school, work and everyday life, but for those who struggle with reading, it may be discouraging or impossible to get help or find appropriate reading material.
Enter Ron Fulleman.
Fulleman, an author and substitute teacher with the William S. Hart Union High School District, writes stories for students who have a high interest in reading but are at a low reading level, or Hi/Lo.
He was first inspired to write for struggling readers after hearing stories from his wife, who works as a teacher librarian with the Hart district, Fulleman said.
“My wife would tell me that she has students who really want to read, but all that’s available in their reading level is ‘Make Way for Ducklings,’ which, of course, they don’t want to be seen with,” Fulleman said. “There are companies that make action-packed, racy or edgy fake book covers for people who struggle with reading but behind that cover is the same ‘Ducklings.’ Why not make content that matches the excitement of the cover for people with lower reading levels?”
He had only done technical writing for previous jobs with telephone companies and had never written creatively, but Fulleman sought to solve his wife’s predicament by writing and self-publishing his three-book “Ron and Bob” series, which is inspired by his real-life experiences with his twin brother. In order to ensure his writing is at the target reading level, Fulleman runs his manuscripts through multiple reading-level software.
“The reception has been really positive to these books, especially among teachers who work with English language learners and in special education,” Fulleman said. “The teachers can hand the student a book and give them something more age appropriate to read.”
His fourth and most recent book, “Faces in the Flames: A Ghost Story,” was published through Putnam & Smith in August and is based on the real-life WWII oil tanker USS Mississinewa, which was the first ship to be sunk by Japanese suicide submarines and on which Fulleman’s father served.
The two-part book contains a fictional story about a boy who steals a piece from the sunken Mississinewa while diving and is visited by the ghost of a dead sailor in addition to a nonfiction book about the sinking of the Mississinewa and stories from the survivors.
“Growing up, I never heard about my dad’s ship in the news or read about it in books until I saw it on the internet and became involved in maintaining its history back in 1998,” said Fulleman, who maintains a website dedicated to the history of the ship and hosted two reunions for survivors of the sinking. “Then I met a book salesman who said that he was looking for lower level books for high school students, who are particularly interested in mystery and horror. I decided to take him up on that.”
Fulleman says he considers reading the closest thing to a time machine that exists. He appreciates how historical documents and written material allow people to get inside the heads of those who lived through important events and time periods. Though Fulleman said he would love to write for audiences with higher reading levels, he does not think he would transition to writing books for them.
“There are so few companies and authors out there writing for kids who don’t have as much,” he said, “so we need to have more authors catering to kids who need more encouragement.”
“Faces in the Flames” and Fulleman’s work can be found on his website, lorronco.com.
He said he plans to embark on a multicity book tour for “Faces in the Flames,” which will include stops in New York, Chicago and San Francisco. Fulleman is currently working on another book inspired by his Romanian ancestry and a trip he took to Castle Bran, largely regarded as Dracula’s castle.