Archive for the ‘Boys’ Category

Literacy Toolbox Review: Pam Allyn’s Best Books for Boys

May 5, 2011

On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of interviewing Pam Allyn here on Literacy Toolbox.  In that Q&A session, she shared her professional insight into what has influenced her work with boys, any misconceptions society has about boy readers and her advice to parents of boys.  I’m delighted to have been able to read her new resource for educators, Pam Allyn’s Best Books for Boys: How to Engage Boys in Reading in Ways That Will Change Their Lives (Scholastic 2011) and review it here.

About the Book: In this resource, Allyn thoughtfully begins with the why.  Why the focus on boys?  It’s an age old question at this point.  How do we get boys to read as much as girls?  Why is there a disparity between boys and girls in reading?  In the second section, she provides the reader with 24 questions and answers related to reading and boys, such as: How can we make boys comfortable with reading?  Does online reading count? How can I celebrate and affirm boys’ achievements in reading?  Allyn ends with an extensive annotated list of books that boys may enjoy.  She explains a coding system – labeling books with E-for Emergent Readers, D – for Developing Readers, and M – for Maturing Readers – that has more to do with a boy’s emotional development rather than his chronological age.  Books are listed by genre – genres that boys typically like.

My Thoughts: This is a fantastic resource for any educator who is interested in motivating boys to read.  It’s an easy read and provides thoughtful, ready to implement ideas to motivate boys to read in the classroom.  And, while it’s technically a resource for educators, I think parents can certainly glean useful information from this resource as well, in terms of ways to encourage reading in boys.  The language is not written in “educator vocabulary,” but instead, is rather parent friendly.  If you have sons or are a teacher of boys, I highly recommend you read Pam Allyn’s Best Books for Boys: How to Engage Boys in Reading in Ways That Will Change Their Lives!

About the Author: Pam Allyn is the Executive Director of LitWorld. She is also the Executive Director of LitLife, a nationwide education professional development consultancy.  Pam has written several books for teachers including the curriculum development guide entitled “The Complete 4 for Literacy” (Scholastic 2007) and one for parents, caregivers and educators entitled “What to Read When” (Penguin 2009).  

Disclosure:  I received a copy of the book from the publisher. 

©2011 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

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Q & A with Author Pam Allyn

May 3, 2011

I am honored to share with you my first Author Q & A on Literacy Toolbox.

Pam Allyn’s Best Books for Boys: How to Engage Boys in Reading in Ways That Will Change Their Lives (Scholastic 2011) is a new resource for educators, but I think parents can certainly glean useful information from it in terms of ways to encourage reading in boys.  I will review the book here on Thursday!  In the meantime, read what Pam has to say about literacy and boys.

  • Please tell Literacy Toolboox readers a little about yourself.  What was your impetus to begin Lit Life and Lit World?

I HAVE LOVED WORDS AND STORIES FOR AS LONG AS I CAN REMEMBER. MY PARENTS’ VOICES READING ALOUD TO ME AND THE NEARNESS OF THEM ARE AMONG MY VERY FIRST MEMORIES. WHEN I BECAME A TEACHER I SAW OVER AND OVER HOW FOR THE MOST MARGINALIZED CHILDREN, BOOKS AND STORIES BRING THEM INTO COMMUNITY AND LOVE AND CONNECTEDNESS. MY FAMILY IS A FAMILY OF TEACHERS. MY GRANDMOTHERS WERE BOTH TEACHERS, AND I GREW UP WITH A SENSE OF THE POWER AND MAGIC OF TEACHING, AND WHAT AN HONORABLE PROFESSION IT TRULY IS. I FOUNDED LITLIFE TO PROVIDE TEACHERS WITH THE CRUCIAL SUPPORT THEY NEED TO BE THE STRONGEST THEY CAN BE. THERE’S A LOT OF TALK ABOUT EFFECTIVE TEACHING, BUT I THINK YOU CANNOT BE AN EFFECTIVE TEACHER UNLESS YOU FALL IN LOVE WITH BOTH THE CRAFT AND SKILL OF TEACHING AND THE CHILDREN THEMSELVES. I FOUNDED LITWORLD IN 2007 AFTER MY WORK WAS RECOGNIZED INTERNATIONALLY AND I HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO TRAVEL TO KENYA AND LIBERIA AND SEE FIRSTHAND THE SUFFERING OF CHILDREN WHO ARE DEPRIVED OF EDUCATION, AND MOST PARTICULARLY, OF LITERACY. I BELIEVE LITERACY IS A HUMAN RIGHT, NOW SO MORE THAN EVER BEFORE, GIVING US ACCESS TO HEALTH, INFORMATION AND INSPIRATION. ALL CHILDREN DESERVE THIS RIGHT.

  • Who are your literacy mentors in the professional field?  Why?

MY LITERACY MENTORS INCLUDE BARRY LANE, JIM BURKE, NAOMI SHIHAB NYE AND GEORGIA HEARD. THEY ARE ALL PEOPLE WHO STAY TRUE TO THE INNER LIVES AND DIGNITY OF CHILDREN AND TEENS NO MATTER WHAT THE LATEST TRENDS ARE OR THE PRESSURE BEING PUT ON SCHOOLS. THEIR WORK STAYS TRUE BLUE TO THEIR CALLING AND IT IS MIRACULOUS WORK: BOTH USEFUL AND PRACTICAL BUT ALSO POETIC AND MAGICAL AT THE SAME TIME. A VERY RARE COMBINATION. I AM ALWAYS GRATEFUL TO LUCY CALKINS FOR TURNING THE LIGHT ON FOR ME WHEN I WAS A GRADUATE STUDENT AND LATER CAME TO WORK WITH HER AT A TIME IN NEW YORK CITY WHEN THE TEACHING OF WRITING WAS MORE THAN A PRACTICE, IT WAS A MISSION. THOSE WERE VERY EXCITING TIMES, AND I WAS SO GLAD TO BE A PART OF THEM. FINALLY, THE GREATEST TEACHER OF ALL WAS PAOLO FREIRE. HE BELIEVED IN THE PERSONAL STORY AS THE CRUX OF ALL LEARNING AND THE TOOL THAT WOULD MAKE IT POSSIBLE FOR EVERYONE TO LEARN TO READ AND WRITE. HE IS ALWAYS WITH ME, AND AS A RESULT THE POWER OF THE STORY IS WHAT FUELS MY WORK EVERY DAY.

  • Who are a few of your favorite authors of children’s literature?

I SO LOVE CHARLOTTE ZOLOTOW, WALTER DEAN MYERS, CARMEN AGRA DEEDY, LANGSTON HUGHES, MO WILLEMS, LAUREN CHILD AND NIKKI GIOVANNI.

  • Which one children’s book has had the most influence on you and why?

CHARLOTTE’S WEB IS THE PERFECT BOOK, BECAUSE IT IS NOT JUST FOR CHILDREN. IT IS FOR ALL OF US. IT IS ABOUT COURAGE AND LONELINESS, SORROW AND JOY. AND ALL OF THAT ABOUT A PIG! IT IS A MIRACULOUS BOOK IN EVERY WAY, FROM THE BIG IDEAS TO THE TINIEST GRAMMATICAL POINT. IT IS A MASTERPIECE. BUT BEYOND ALL THAT IS THE FACT THAT THE CENTER OF THE BOOK IS FERN, A TEN YEAR OLD GIRL WHO WATCHES AND LISTENS CAREFULLY AND VALUES FRIENDSHIP AND THE HUMAN HEART. HE NAILED IT.

  • In the last several years, much has been written about the differences in learning between boys and girls.  How has this influenced your work with boys?

I DO BELIEVE THAT WE HAVE NOT CREATED CLASSROOMS THAT ARE SANCTUARIES FOR ALL KINDS OF LEARNERS AND BOYS REALLY SUFFER IN THAT. THE MAIN MESSAGE SEEMS TO BE: SIT QUIETLY, CONFORM TO EXPECTATIONS, BE OBEDIENT. THESE ARE NOT GOOD MESSAGES FOR EITHER GENDER, ESPECIALLY IN AN ERA WHEN WE ALL SHOULD BE ENCOURAGING BOYS AND GIRLS TO BE INNOVATORS AND THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX. I AM CONCERNED ABOUT THE RESULTS FOR BOYS AT THE END OF HIGH SCHOOL AND HOW MANY MORE BOYS END UP IN PRISON AND LACK LITERACY SKILLS THAN GIRLS. IT IS A REAL CRISIS HERE IN THE UNITED STATES. IN MY WORK WITH BOYS, FIRST AND FOREMOST I WANT THEM TO FEEL A PART OF A READING COMMUNITY AND TO VALUE WHAT THEY READ AND HOW THEY READ, EVEN IF IT’S NOT INSIDE A CHAPTER BOOK WITH A MEDAL ON IT.

  • Are there any misconceptions society may have about boy readers?

WE THINK BOYS DON’T LIKE TO READ WHEN IN FACT MANY OF OUR BOYS ARE READING CONSTANTLY! THEY MIGHT BE READING VIDEO MANUALS, OR TEXTS, OR INTERNET SITES AND NOT THE AGE OLD CHAPTER BOOK SO WHAT WE DO IS WE VALUE THE BOY LESS AS A READER. I WANT TO CHANGE THAT. IT’S ALL READING.

  • Which children’s book character (or type of character) do boys typically connect with? Why?

BOYS TEND TO (AND I DON’T WANT TO GENERALIZE WHICH IS WHY I SAY, TEND) LIKE CHARACTERS LIKE THEMSELVES; BOYS! THEY LIKE BOYS WHO MAKE MISTAKES, WHO ARE HUMAN BUT ALSO DO SOME VERY COOL THINGS. THAT’S WHY HARRY POTTER IS AN INSPIRATION. HE’S A PLAIN OLD BOY WITH A SCAR ON HIS FOREHEAD BUT HE FINDS MAGIC ANYWAY.

  • What advice can you give to parents of boys to encourage them to read?

MODEL YOURSELF AS A READER TOO! PUT DOWN YOUR DISTRACTIONS AND CREATE TIME FOR READING TOGETHER AT HOME. IF WE ARE TELLING OUR KIDS TO READ BUT SPEND ALL OUR TIME FLITTING FROM ONE CELL PHONE TO THE NEXT, WE ARE NOT SENDING THE MESSAGE OUR BOYS WILL UNDERSTAND. SIT DOWN TOGETHER. BE READERS TOGETHER.

  • What five books would you recommend for boys between 4-8?

DON’T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS, MO WILLEMS

FLAT STANLEY, JEFF BROWN

THE ODIOUS OGRE, NORMAN JUSTER

TRUE STORY OF THE THREE LITTLE PIGS, JON SCIEZKA

CLICK, CLACK, MOO BY DOREEN CRONIN

  • What suggestions do you have for parents to help their sons maintain their reading over the summer?

PARENTS MUST BE POSITIVE ABOUT THEIR SONS AS READERS. KNOW YOUR SONS AND BRING THEM BOOKS OR FIND BOOKS WITH THEM THAT REFLECT THEIR PASSIONS. BE A READER TOGETHER WITH YOUR SONS. EXPAND YOUR VIEW ABOUT WHAT MAKES A GOOD READER AND DON’T BE JUDGMENTAL. IF THEY LIKE TO READ CEREAL BOXES, COMPLIMENT THEM AS READERS! HAVE FUN!

Pam Allyn began her career as a teacher. She is now the Executive Director of LitWorld. She is also the Executive Director of LitLife, a nationwide education professional development consultancy.  Pam has written several books for teachers including the curriculum development guide entitled “The Complete 4 for Literacy” (Scholastic 2007) and one for parents, caregivers and educators entitled “What to Read When” (Penguin 2009).

©2011 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Tool Time Rewind: A Month in Review at Literacy Toolbox

November 4, 2010

I began this new monthly post, Tool Time Rewind in September, and then completely forgot to recap October’s posts!  So, a few days into November, here is October’s Tool Time Rewind.  I will be back next week with posts related to family literacy!

Boys and Reading: Tips for Making Reading “Boy-Friendly”

The media has put such an emphasis on the differences between boys and girls lately and really, whether there is a discrepancy between the ways boys and girls learn.  Find research based tips to make reading “boy-friendly” in this post.

“How to Raise Boys to Read:” An Educator and Parent Responds

In September, Thomas Spence wrote an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal about boys and books.  In this piece he indicated that boys will become barbaric morons if we allow them to read gross humor books.  This is my response.

Getting Started with a Father/Son Book Club

Did you know that boys need male role models in reading?  Fathers have a great influence over their child’s education and how well they perform.  If a male role model values reading, boys will learn to value reading as well.  With this in mind, consider starting a Father/Son Book Club.

Is There Really a Significant Difference Between Boys and Girls Reading Scores?

Over the last several years media coverage has touched upon boys and reading.  According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), an assessment given to random students nationally every two years, fourth grade girls continue to outscore boys in reading; however, if you look at the data provided by The Nation’s Report Card, the difference is minimal.

Using Technology to Entice Boys to Read

Historically, science and math have always interested boys.  Now we have technology which is a newer form of science and math is used to create it.  Hmm.  Sounds right up a boy’s alley if you ask me.  So how can we harness technology and use it in a way that entices our boys to read instead of stopping them from reading altogether?  Consider video games and digital storytelling as two options.

And that is Tool Time Rewind for the month of October.

This month’s theme is “Family Literacy.”  Next week, you’ll find real world and online resources to encourage and increase family literacy.

And don’t forget: ”We-View” Wednesday is back! The third Wednesday of every month is reserved for reviews of books you read with your children.  Share yours and your child’s thoughts on the book!  To participate, please email me [dlittle [at] linkstoliteracy [dot] com] your review by the Sunday prior.  I hope you will join us!

Using Technology to Entice Boys to Read

October 28, 2010

The media has a lot to say about boys and reading.  I will speak to recent media coverage over the next month.  However, having been a teacher of fourth and fifth grade boys and now a mother of a second grade boy, I am always looking for ways to engage boys in reading.  So this month on Literacy Toolbox, I hope to focus on boys and reading.

Like it or not technology is here to stay.  Many people think technology could put an end to reading as we know it.  Others are ready to embrace technology and determine its place in society.  I think technology can be a double edged sword when it comes to reading.  However, I do believe that technology can be used to entice boys to read.  How, you ask?

Historically, science and math have always interested boys.  Now we have technology which is a newer form of science and math is used to create it.  Hmm.  Sounds right up a boy’s alley if you ask me.  So how can we harness technology and use it in a way that entices our boys to read instead of stopping them from reading altogether?  I’m not propagating that boys should only use technology to read, but instead technology can supplement traditional paper books.   Here are two ways to consider:

Video Games – Boys thrive on action and competition.  Video games provide both.  But, video games also provide reading opportunities.  If you allow your son to play video games that require reading to move on to future levels, your son has the opportunity to meet his need for action and your desire for him to read.  Or, provide your son with the manual to a favorite game so that he can read the manual to learn how to advance to future levels.  Many gaming magazines are also available now such as Nintendo Power or PlayStation: The Official Magazine.  Read how video games played a part in one teen’s inspiring success story at Get Kids Reading.

Digital Storytelling – This is a fantastic way for boys to enjoy reading and writing, without traditional pen and paper.  When boys tell stories through digital means, they create writing pieces using technology and media.  They may use photos, artwork, audio clips or video clips.  When combined together these materials create a multimedia presentation.  Read more about digital storytelling on Getting Boys to Read.

What ways do you encourage technology use in your house?  Do you think boys can have a healthy balance of technology and traditional books?

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Is There Really a Significant Difference Between Boys and Girls Reading Scores?

October 26, 2010

The media has a lot to say about boys and reading.  I will speak to recent media coverage over the next month.  However, having been a teacher of fourth and fifth grade boys and now a mother of a second grade boy, I am always looking for ways to engage boys in reading.  So this month on Literacy Toolbox, I hope to focus on boys and reading.

Over the last several years media coverage has touched upon boys and reading.  According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), an assessment given to random students nationally every two years, fourth grade girls continue to outscore boys in reading; however, if you look at the data provided by The Nation’s Report Card, the difference is minimal.  In fact, between 2005 and 2007, both genders’ average scores went up two points and between 2007 and 2009, both genders’ average scores remained the same.  If the NAEP is supposed to be “a continuing and nationally representative measure of achievement in various subjects over time,” why are we as a nation freaking out over boys scores?  Both genders are holding steady, with boys lagging only about six points behind girls consistently.  Is that significant?

I have both a son and a daughter.  I am an educator.  I have expectations that both of my children will do well in school.  As I stated in “How to Raise Boys Who Read: An Educator and Parent Responds,” I do believe there are biological differences between boys and girls.  I see this every day in the way my husband and I relate to each other, my son and daughter relate to each other, and my son and I relate to each other.  My husband and son are very logical thinkers; my daughter and I are much more emotional.  I have to believe then, that these biological differences affect the way we learn and the way we see the world.

Statistics are all about interpretation.  I interpret The Nation’s Report Card to show that, while fourth grade boys lag a little behind fourth grade girls in reading, the difference is not that significant and has not significantly changed in ten years.  BOTH girls and boys are holding steady.

What are your thoughts on The Nation’s Report Card?  Specifically when it comes to the difference between fourth grade boys and girls and reading?

Disclosure: I have only used one statistical piece of information here.  However, I chose the one piece that most media representatives tend to use.  In addition, I only looked at the reading differences between boys and girls in fourth grade.  Eighth grade and twelfth grade scores may show a significant change.

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Tips for Starting a Father/Son Book Club

October 19, 2010

The media has a lot to say about boys and reading.  I will speak to recent media coverage over the next month.  However, having been a teacher of fourth and fifth grade boys and now a mother of a second grade boy, I am always looking for ways to engage boys in reading.  So this month on Literacy Toolbox, I hope to focus on boys and reading.

Did you know that boys need male role models in reading?  Fathers have a great influence over their child’s education and how well they perform.  If a male role model values reading, boys will learn to value reading as well.  With this in mind, consider starting a Father/Son Book Club.  Consider it the new age “boys club.” 

Here is how to get started:

  • Gather your son and several of his friends (no more than 5 boys total) and their fathers.
  • Determine a meeting place and time (monthly seems to work well).  Rotate from host to host.
  • The host and his son choose the text for the month they host.
  • Provide snacks!
  • Provide a guideline for discussion.  Or if you prefer, keep it casual, but the host should be able to move the discussion along.
  • Boys and their fathers should read the text together ahead of the meeting.  Or, if the reading for the month is short, consider setting aside time at the meeting for fathers and sons to read together.

Boys typically tend to enjoy short articles and graphic based texts.  Often times, they also prefer “real-world” information vs. fiction or story type novels.

Text Ideas:

  • Graphic Novels
  • Magazine articles (Boys Life, Sports Illustrated for Kids, Kids Discover, National Geographic for Kids, Ranger Rick)
  • Articles of interest from the Internet
  • Newspaper articles (or online news sources)

Boys are normally very active!  Tap into that natural curiosity and exuberance in your book clubs. Provide activities that require thinking and movement in relation to the text you read.

Activity Ideas:

  • Read about the history of a favorite sport and then play that sport.  As you play the sport, discuss the reading.  Tie discussion into the rules of the game (i.e. for every goal made in soccer or every basket made in basketball, a discussion point is made)
  • Choose a specific topic (i.e the history of tools).  Take the opportunity to teach the boys about the topic, through discussion and hands-on activities (i.e. the proper way to use tools).
  • Read a newspaper article (or online news) with the boys.  Discuss current events.  Determine ways the boys could get involved in a community or civic event.
  • Read graphic novels or comic books.  Then have the boys create their own.

At the end of the day, a Father/Son Book Club provides an opportunity for fathers and sons to spend quality time together while reading.  Consider keeping a father/son book journal.  Write about favorite books you’ve read together and the activities that you did with it.  Years from now, you’ll have a lasting memory of a childhood spent together and the enjoyment both father and son felt!

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

“How to Raise Boys Who Read”: An Educator and Parent Responds

October 12, 2010

The media has a lot to say about boys and reading.  I will speak to recent media coverage over the next month.  However, having been a teacher of fourth and fifth grade boys and now a mother of a second grade boy, I am always looking for ways to engage boys in reading.  So this month on Literacy Toolbox, I hope to focus on boys and reading.

In a recent (September 24, 2010) Wall Street Journal Opinion piece, “How to Raise Boys Who Read,” Thomas Spence relays his opinion on what not to allow boys to read in order to raise boys who read.  While Spence is entitled to his opinion, I respectfully disagree.

Boys and girls are biologically different.  I see this difference daily between my own children (one boy and one girl).  My son has always been a very active and competitive boy.  I have, honestly, done nothing to foster this activity or competitiveness within him.  It comes naturally.  My daughter, on the other hand, is an active four year old, but can sit quietly playing by herself.  She could care less who comes in first or last and frequently has issue when her brother tells her that he “won” something she had no idea she was competing for.

Mr. Spence indicated that if I allow my son to read gross-out books or books that exploit his love of bodily humor, I’m more likely to raise a moronic barbarian who will not make a good husband, father, or professional.  I beg to differ.

I don’t think the types of books my son reads has anything to do with the adult he will become.  I think my parenting does.  If I don’t instill in my son manners and appropriate behaviors then, absolutely, I risk the chance of raising a barbarian.  But, I do instill manners and specific values in my son and I allow him to read whatever he chooses.  Sometimes he chooses to read Captain Underpants and sometimes he chooses to read National Geographic for Kids.  It all depends on his mood and his interests at the time.

Indicating that my son or any boy is going to become a moronic barbarian because of his reading choices makes as much sense as saying that children are going to grow up to become ineffective adults if we allow them to listen to certain music or watch certain TV shows.  All of this is in direct relation to parenting.  As a parent, you choose how to raise your child.  If I choose to allow my son to eat his meals without silverware, talk with food in his mouth, and act disrespectfully, then I will probably raise a barbarian.  But, by allowing him to read books that pique his interest, that engage him, that make him want to read more?  I think not.

So, I say provide your sons with anything and everything they may want to read.  Captain Underpants, Grossology books, “Sweet Farts,” – whatever gets them reading.  Because as far as I’m concerned, as long as my son is reading, he’s learning.  And believe me, he didn’t learn about farts and burps from a book!

Check back with me in 20 years, but I believe that my son will be a functioning and successful member of society.  And if he’s not, blame my parenting, not the books he read as a kid.

Mr. Spence also touched on video games, but I think I’ll discuss video games and boys in another post.  In the meantime, if you are interested in ways you can entice boys to read, check out my post, Boys and Reading: Tips for Making Reading “Boy-Friendly.” (Just a warning: the post may contain recommendations for books that contain bodily humor).

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Boys and Reading: Tips to Make Reading “Boy-Friendly”

October 5, 2010

The media has a lot to say about boys and reading.  I will speak to recent media coverage over the next month.  However, having been a teacher of fourth and fifth grade boys and now a mother of a second grade boy, I am always looking for ways to engage boys in reading.  So this month on Literacy Toolbox, I hope to focus on boys and reading.

I begin with this post I wrote over a year ago as a guest on The Children’s Book Review:

There has been a lot of talk lately (well, several years lately) about boys and reading.  Why don’t boys like to read?  What can we do to encourage them to read?  What is the difference in learning for boys and girls?  As an educator and a mom of a six year old boy, I am intrigued by this “new” phenomenon.  I am a reader.  I do not know a life without reading. I hope that my children will become avid readers, too.  But, I worry about my son.  I know the statistics.  Even though boys are pretty much developmentally even with girls when they start school, by fourth grade an average boy can be up to two years behind.  How is that possible?  What can we do to ensure that our boys don’t stray from the path of reading?

What Does the Research Say?

Boys are active beings.  They have “boy energy.”  They have a need to be physical, in motion, and kinesthetic (Gurian, 2005). . . pretty much all the time!  They want to have fun!  Instead of looking at these qualities as detriments, why don’t we use them to help our boys?  Instead of teaching boys the way society dictates we should, perhaps we should start thinking about how boys learn best.  If we begin to provide strategies that encourage boys’ interest in reading, we may begin to increase the possibilities for boys to experience success in school and beyond (Neu and Weinfeld, 2007).  More importantly, we may encourage a lifelong love of reading in our boys, and isn’t that what we all want?

How Do We Make Reading “Boy-Friendly?”

The educator in me knew from the moment I had my son that I would have to work hard to raise a boy that enjoyed school and reading in particular.  Through five years of teaching, I can probably count on one hand the number of boys that I taught that actually enjoyed reading when they arrived in my class.  If we can work on making reading a more “boy-friendly” activity, we may be able to encourage more boys to read and to want to read.   If we can attend to boys’ needs more when we read, perhaps we can encourage more boys to want to read and to enjoy reading!  Here is a list of ten tips to help make reading more “boy-friendly” in your home or classroom:

1.  Make Reading Active

Boys thrive on activity.  Provide opportunities for boys to “act out” what they have read.  For younger children, after reading a book, create puppets and put on a puppet show.  For older boys, create a Readers Theater script.  Have boys act out parts of the book.

2.  Provide plenty of informational/nonfiction texts

Choose books based on interests. (See #8)  If a child is going through a truck phase, borrow books from the library about different kinds of trucks.  Provide boys with nonfiction subscription magazines.  There are some great ones out there: Animal Baby (National Wildlife Federation), National Geographic for Little Kids, Sports Illustrated for Kids, Ranger Rick, National Geographic for Kids.

3.  Provide Male Reading Role Models

This is probably one of the most important tips!  My husband, a self-proclaimed non-reader, reads to our son every night and has done so since he was about a year old.  They enjoy their time together and this gives them the opportunity to read gross, silly, fun books that I might not necessarily read with my son (see #10).  Equally important is for boys to see men in their lives reading themselves.  My son mostly sees his father reading news on the computer, but that is still reading (see #6)!

4.  Graphic Novels are Boy Friendly

Boys tend to be visual learners.  Therefore, graphic novels/books are excellent for boys.  These are typically books that have been written in comic book form, but are not comic books (like your traditional Marvel comics).  My son has a graphic book of The Lion King.  It is probably at a reading level of a third grader, but we enjoy reading it together and looking at the pictures.  I recently found Phonic Comics by Innovative Kids.  They are written on various levels for your emergent reader all the way to your independent reader.  More publishers are beginning to see the need for graphic novels and are translating known stories into graphic novels for all levels of readers.

5.  Make Literacy Hands-On

For the preschool age child, put pudding on a cookie sheet and allow him to practice writing his name in the pudding.  This is a great pre-literacy activity.  For older boys, allow them to practice writing their spelling words in pudding.  When they are done, they can eat the pudding!

6.  Incorporate Technology into Reading

According to Neu and Weinfeld (2007), there is not necessarily a greater value in reading a book than in reading online.  Boys tend to gravitate to the computer and the Internet can be a great source of informational text for boys.  If a child wants to know the answer to a particular question, use a book and the Internet to find answers.  This provides lessons in reading multiple sources, as well.   Encourage older boys to use publishing programs to create visual representations of the text (See #4).  This provides boys with an opportunity to process their reading.

7.  Create Competitions

Challenge boys to informal spelling bees, brainteasers, or studying competitions.  Boys thrive on challenges and competition can be the stimulant they need to really care about reading (Gurian, 2005).

8.  Match Books to Interests/Allow Choice

One of the most important things we can do for boys is to allow them to choose their own reading materials.  Even if the material is above or below their reading level, if it is a text on a topic that interests them, allow them to read it.  A book that is “too easy” may allow him to feel good about reading; a book that is “too hard” may allow him to stretch his reading skills.  By allowing boys choice, we are providing opportunities for them to develop reading skills without the added stress of disliking the text.

9.  Encourage Audio Reading

Make recordings of yourself, or a male role model reading your child’s favorite books (or buy commercial books on CD).  When you are unavailable to read to him, have him listen to the recording and follow along.  Hearing books read aloud is a powerful way to increase boys’ interest in reading.

10. Encourage Reading of Humorous, Gross, Violent and/or Silly Books

Oh boy!  This is a big one!  If it grosses out mom, then a boy will probably find it engrossing.   And that is the goal when getting boys to read.  We want them engrossed in whatever it is that they are reading.  If it takes a gross, humorous, silly, and/or violent (within reason) text to do it, then so be it!

A Few “Boy-Friendly” Books My Son Would Recommend:

The Trucktown Series by Jon Scieszka

Welcome to Trucktown! (Jon Scieszka’s Trucktown)
Trucktown came about as a series of books for preschoolers (girls like them just as much as boys!).  Scieszka actually researched at a preschool near his house and has stated that all of the characters (which are all vehicles) are based on the preschoolers he worked with.

Fly Guy (a series of books) by Tedd Arnold

Buzz Boy And Fly Guy (the most recent book in the series)

A great series of books about a boy and his pet fly.  Since one of the main characters is a fly, you can only imagine the gross things you may encounter when reading.  However, the author writes humorously, as well.  I enjoy reading these books with my son – not so gross, that I’m grossed out!  My son and I recently read Buzz Boy And Fly Guy together and “we-viewed” it for “We-View” Wednesday.  Check it out to see what my son thought.

Chicken Butt! by Erica S. Perl

This is an example of buying against type.  Not typically a book that would catch my eye for my own pleasure reading, but the title did catch my eye for my son.  And, of course he loves it!  So does my husband.  It’s based on the classic joke, “You know what?”

Smelly Locker: Silly Dilly School Songs by Alan Katz

We came across this book in the bookstore one day.  My husband and son were looking for something to read together while I perused the shelves.  Written about school life, each new song can be sung to the tune of a classic children’s song.

So, what are your thoughts when it comes to making reading “boy friendly?”  Does your son like a particular book or series?  Do you notice a difference between boys and girls, when it comes to book choices?

References:

Gurian, M. & Smith, K.  (2005).  The Minds of Boys: Saving Our Sons from Falling Behind in School and Life.  Jossey-Bass: San Francisco

Neu, T.W. &Weinfeld, R.  (2007).  Helping Boys Succeed in School. Prufrock Press:  Waco.

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