13 June 2008

Guys Read: Narrowing the reading gap between boys and girls

Mari's email was so fascinating I thought I'd just plop it in a post in its entirety:

Your recent post on read-alouds reminded me of a great resource for parents and educators trying to ensure boys aren't left out of the "reading for pleasure" world.

Author Jon Scieszka, who wrote The Stinky Cheese Man, The Time Warp Trio series, and The Math Curse, among others, was recently named the first Ambassador for Young People's Literature by the Library of Congress. A few years ago he started an organization called Guys Read to focus on narrowing the reading gap between boys and girls. I'm submitting the link to the "About" page as a starting point, which outlines some of the statistics as to why they are focusing specifically on boys.

There is a recommended book list by age (young guys, middle guys, older guys). You can click on either the book or the author for Amazon links to ordering. As a teacher and a mom, I found this list of books also serves as a good starting point for any reluctant reader, not simply boys. But the information about the discrepancy between boys' reading achievement and girls' reading is thought-provoking.

Thank you for this, Mari. With summer upon us (and most librarys' summer reading programs raring to go), this is a wonderful place to stoke those reading fires in boys.

I'd love to hear your sons' favorite books. What are they?

Your comments

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My 8yo son is just starting to be a fluent reader, so I will be checking out Scieszka's site next (love Math Curse!), to find some good summer reading for him. My 13yo son is a great reader, thanks to a wonderful 3rd grade teacher. He loves Harry Potter, Matt Christopher and Mike Lupica, and has also been reading a lot of sports biographies lately. When he was younger, he likes the Goosebumps and Magic Treehouse series.

YA author Tamora Pierce put together a list of "boy books", found at:

http://www.tamora-pierce.com/recbooks/books4boys.htm

It was put together with the help of many of her readers, and though it doesn't include every possible book (in fact, I'm very surprised to find it doesn't include Matt Christopher as mentioned previously), it's a pretty good start.

My son can't get enough of the Spiderwick Chronicles.

There are just five books in the series, but (thank GOD!) the authors have penned a new, related series called "Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles". Book 1 (The Nixie's Song) is out now, the next one is coming in September.

My daughter excels at reading - in fact, her school measured her reading to be at a 6th grade level (she's in second grade). My son, on the other hand, is the athlete in the family. He's only four, but I know getting him to sit down and read a book will be a challenge.

Magic Treehouse! all Beverly Cleary books (esp. The Mouse and The Motorcycle trio), Ordinary Boy, Homer Price, lots of Usborne non-fiction (google them- they have online vendors)

This is great! I'm planning to save all these ideas from other readers for my 7yo. He's just hit the bookworm stage.

My 3 year old has been paying attention when we read "Voyage of the Dawn Treader" because of all the action. He loves it.

Holes is also a great one. Louis Sachar is the bomb.

Hi,

I grew up as a reluctant reader. Now I write action-adventures & mysteries, especially for boys 8 and up, that kids hate to put down. My web site is at http://www.maxbooks.9k.com and my Books for Boys blog is at http://booksandboys.blogspot.com
Ranked by Accelerated Reader

Max Elliot Anderson

Read about my message to kids in a bottle: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2008/5/prweb983364.htm

My older stepson liked Harry Potter and all Beverly Cleary, plus "spy" fiction - Robert Ludlum, I think - when he was in his tweens and early teens, but now that he's 18 and all his friends are hoodlums, reading isn't cool anymore.

My toddler son (2) has recently become fascinated with the Madeline books and the old Curious George books. I thought that the plots and amount of words per page would bore him, but he will sit on my lap for at least half an hour every night listening and then cry for more.

My 6 year old (who admittedly, reads well above average) is currently immersed in the world of Harry Potter. He's declared them to be "the best books EVER!". Before those, he adored Dav Pilkey's Captain Underpants books, The Magic Tree House books, and The A to Z Mysteries.

Don't forget comic books. They are traditionally more attractive to males for some reason (although I loved them as a girl.) My mother started my brother on them because she won a spelling bee from reading comics: she learned alibi while reading Batman.

Asha- did you compile a list of the read-alouds? I'm going to print it all out and send it with my kids and husband when they go to the library tomorrow for Daddy-Day.

For my third grade son, he is usually drawn to humorous writing, but he enjoyed The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Here are a few others he's enjoyed this year:

Holly Black's The Spiderwick Chronicles
Wiley and Grampa's Creature Features series, by Kirk Scroggs
Charlie Small: Gorilla City, by Charlie Small (and the rest of the series)
Both Diary of a Wimpy Kid stories, which he devoured in a few hours
The Franny K. Stein, by Jim Benton
The Amelia Rules series (middle grade graphic novels), by Jimmy Gownley
All the "ology" books, such as Dragonology, Egyptology, etc.
You Read to Me, and I Read to You: Scary Stories

and as read-alouds: Things Not Seen, by Andrew Clements and Flush, by Carl Hiassen

I think that boys often get turned off from reading by adults who place judgments on what they are reading. If they want to read comic books or Sports Illustrated or whatever, let them! It doesn't have to be the classics, it just has to be words. Remember, too, parents: kids model the behaviors they see at home. Are you reading?

I would also add that boys often enjoy aterial that is not what we traditionally think of as leisure reading, ie. novels. Many boys will devour non-fiction on topics of interest, and reading levels and vocabulary related to those subjects are found to be substantially than a boy's overall reading level when measured in fiction reading. It's worth getting to know the non-fiction section~!

Midlife Midwife and Kittenpie bring up two points that are very true. We ended up subscribing to several magazines for our son, and graphic novels or comics are also big hits.

The Wiley and Grandpa series may never be considered classics or literature, but they helped my son read fluently, and there is something thrilling about your child pick up a book on his own and tune out everything else.

Likewise, I found my son was really into magazines like Discovery Kids or National Geographic for Kids. Even (gasp) Pokemon cards have been ways that boys learned to read for pleasure. I'm blown away with the way they interact with text -- and numbers -- on these card games. Some people don't realize that as boys get older, reading web content is ALSO a form of literacy.

I'm glad someone raised the non-fiction issue. My 7-year-old advanced reader will tell you his favorite books of the last couple of years are Harry Potter (books 1-4 -- 4 was a little too dark for him and he decided he wasn't read for the others), My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George, and Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series. But he also reads a lot of nonfiction, especially math and science books. Some favorites: G is for Googol and Q is for Quark, and The Number Devil (the author of which escapes me), the Usborne Book of Science Experiments and lots of my nature/wildlife guides, which are intended for grownups but great for kids too.

Also, over at AJ's Clubhouse , a blog on gifted education, advocacy and parenting, we are working on a book list for advanced readers. We're currently focused on 5-8 year olds, but we hope to expand the age range eventually. Please come check it out and add your contributions. I believe that our fiction list is mostly posted now and I'm working on nonfiction books by topic area.

When I read out-loud to my boys, I usually give them a snack to eat (to keep them busy), or quiet "fidget" toys to play with. They are able to sit still for longer times this way, and both look forward to reading!

Here are some favorites:

A to Z Mysteries (reads to himself)

Dragonling

Owls in the Family

*I* think the Little House on the Prairie series is just fine for boys to listen to. Lots of Outdoor Adventure going on in those books!

Any book by Seymour Simon is great for learning about sciency kinds of things.

I've found that my 9 year old loves all kinds of books, and they are not really "gendered" in any way. He likes the Warrior books (about cats), the Bartimaus trilogy, the Chronicles of Narnia, Little House on the Prarie, The Grimm Sisters books, anything by Avi or Cornelia Funke, and he's just started enjoying manga like Ranma 1/2 and InuYasha.

I'd shoot for good books, not boy books. He loves female and male protags alike, as long as the book is well done and engaging.

Since no one's mentioned "Homer Price" yet, here's a plug for one of the most entertaining read-aloud books for boys (my girls loved it too) that you can read over and over. By Robert McCloskey (of "Make Way for Ducklings" fame), who illustrated as well as wrote these amusing tales of a resourceful young fellow in a small town who gets into all sorts of situations with a goofy bankrobbers, a pet skunk named Aroma, an over-active doughnut machine, a missing diamond ring, a giant string ball contest, and much more:
http://www.amazon.com/Homer-Price-Robert-McCloskey/dp/0140309276

After that, you can read more Homer Price stories in "Centerburg Tales." Great stuff!

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