The Sunday New York Times Book Review was devoted (mostly) to books for kids and books about education. There were books about social issues like bullying, books about “middle school mischief” and one about education reform. The item that really caught my interest, however, was Robert Lipsyte’s essay on the very last page: Boys and Reading: Is there Any Hope?.
As I await my class lists for the new school year, I know that I will have among them some reluctant readers – both girls and boys. Last years’ experience really drove home the point that Lipsyte makes about boy readers, “that boys’ aversion to reading, let alone to novels, has been worsening for years,” … some boy readers, that is. Getting the right kind of books into the hands of these readers proved to be a difficult task. This particular passage from Lipsyte’s article really struck a chord in me:
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.
So often, these reluctant readers would turn to the Maximum Ride or Alex Rider series – great books, but books that are plot driven and hard to discuss character development, these and all those other sorts of elements that I want my sixth graders to be analyzing and synthesizing as they develop into more proficient readers.
I have spent a lot of time this summer thinking about reluctant readers and struggling readers, about ways in which I can assess and intervene more aggressively. I read Kylene Beers’ When Kids Can’t Read twice – which was a good thing, because it is so filled with strategies to help just these kinds of readers. This year I want to set aside separate baskets for these students – so often I reach into the bookshelves for the right book for a particular struggling reader only to find that it’s checked out. Having specific baskets set aside will make it easier to get that “just right” book to the right reader.
One of these baskets, thanks to Lipsyte’s nudging, will target boy readers with strong and relatable boy characters – Red Kayak, Tiger Rising, Bridge to Terabithia, The Watsons Go To Birmingham, The Absolute Value of Mike and Maniac Magee come to mind right away. Having a basket like this, with books of varying levels and genres, will make reading conferences much more effective – especially in those early days whn matching kids and books is the top priority.
A great site for books for boys:
…the inimitable Jon Scieszka’s very own website set aside just for books guys will love to read.