Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Boys! Help! Argh! (Why don't they read?)

There are many reasons why I might write that title. Most of them have to do with the state of my bathrooms right now. Or the smell in the shoe closet (Calvin is allergic to socks). And I don't even have boys that need deodorant yet.

But I'm not talking about odors here.

It really is true that boys don't read as much as girls. It just is, and I have been asked by quite a few people recently for help finding books for their boys. And the plea always seems to be followed by an exclamation point and a throwing up of the hands. What is out there for boys to read?

I can relate. Shaemus is the closest thing I have to a non-reader. He does read, but not the voracious way his siblings do. I stew about this regularly, particularly as I'm trying to fall asleep at night.

Part of that is simply the stage he's in—it is a hard thing to move from picture books to chapter books to novels, and we are pushing that too early—but there is more to it.

Could it be that he is in a classroom where the kids sometimes go an entire day not reading a book?

It could.

Could it be that he just prefers working with his hands, building and playing?

It could.

But it could also be that I don't have enough books that suit his particular needs and interests right now. And it could also be that he doesn't have enough male role models who read. In general, books for children are written by predominantly female writers, published by predominantly female publishers, stocked by predominantly female librarians, taught by predominantly female teachers, and distributed by predominantly—mothers.

When was the last time your husband or father followed your son around, begging him to read this great book? 

Read the article below. Please. It is so good. Many of us are wringing our hands about our six to twelve-year-old boys who don't read enough. But reading for boys practically vanishes once they hit their teens, and the impression I have gotten from mothers of these teenage boys is that they have given up. Even boys who used to read won't pick up a book for fun. It is too hard to force them; they aren't interested. What's the point?

Here's a great quote from the article:

"If we’re to counter this tendency and encourage reading among boys who may collectively resist it, boys need to be approached individually with books about their fears, choices, possibilities and relationships — the kind of reading that will prick their dormant empathy, involve them with fictional characters and lead them into deeper engagement with their own lives. This is what turns boys into readers."

This topic deserves more than one blog post. I am worried about Shaemus, but I'm also worried about our boys in this country, in this world. If you have any thoughts or ideas or articles to pass on, I would love to get them. 

It seems we may have been better about publishing books for boys a long time ago. With that in mind, here are some great, GREAT, books for younger boys (six to twelve depending on interest, reading ability, and whether or not you are reading aloud or they are reading to themselves). The more I look at this list, the more I think this article is correct. We got boys better back long ago.  

Here's one more quote from the article:
"Today’s books for boys — supernatural space-and-sword epics that read like video game manuals and sports novels with preachy moral messages — often seem like cynical appeals to the lowest common denominator. Boys prefer video games and ESPN to book versions of them."

Let's talk about this!

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The Great Brain and its sequels by John D. Fitzgerald. THESE ARE SO GOOD!

The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. (Lloyd Alexander is a neglected author today, and he should not be.)

Mad Scientists Club by Bertrand Brinley. (Your boys will wish they had a club like this. Or they'll make one!)

Homer Price and The Canterburg Tales by Robert McCloskey. (Robert McCloskey is also neglected!)

Encylopedia Brown by Donald Sobol (Really, these are great, and at least these have new covers!)

Tom Swift: Young Inventor (Exciting, not about animals, and not about farts.)

Secret Panel Mysteries by Clifford Hicks (Great mysteries in here...)

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The Forgotten Door by Alexander Key

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The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron

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The Shy Stegosaurs of Cricket Creek by Evelyn Lampman

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