Sunday, January 20, 2013

Thoughts on Literacy: Books for Boys

I'm a reader by nature. I usually have several books going at the same time. I currently have subscriptions to five different magazines or journals. And that doesn't begin to touch the reading I do in pixels.

I've always loved to read. In my childhood, I can remember coming home from the library with a stack of 20 books and having devoured them by the next week's trip back. I had favorites that I reread so many times I could practically recite them back to you. Fantasy and science fiction and adventure and mythology and schlocky kids-lit (Choose-Your-Own-Adventure!) and lots of non-fiction too...I loved to read!

Image courtesy katerha CC-BY 2.0
When I became a teacher, I kept on reading--and I still read a lot of Children's and Young Adult Lit today, even though I'm a grownup. I figured that the best way to get a kid hooked on a book was knowing a lot of books, so I could make good suggestions for them. I wasn't an English teacher (oh, heavens...that would be a bad thing...), but I really felt--and still feel--strongly that kids need to have adults modeling reading for them if we want them to become readers. And I do believe the old adage that "every teacher teaches reading."


I've been part of a chat on Twitter the past few Saturday mornings: #rechat ("rethinking and re-imagining education.") This past chat ended up centering on literacy. We chatted quite a bit about what literacy looks like in the 21st Century: things like computer literacy, visual literacy, and media literacy were discussed alongside more a more traditional view of literacy (reading and writing.)

Someone in the chat made the assertion that kids today read and write more than kids at any other time in history. I thought that was interesting. If you count their screentime, I think that's probably true. Social media and text messages bump this up significantly!

Someone else countered this idea by reminding us that they might be reading and writing more, but it's short form (140 characters, anyone?) rather than longer forms that take more dedicated thought and effort. This got me thinking. I'm not discounting short form reading and writing; I think they have value, and as contemporary communication is made up of so much of this, students need to have experience with it. But I don't think it should be at the expense of long-form reading and writing.

Call me a dinosaur, but I think hard-copy print pages still have an important place in kids' lives. I want kids to read novels. Paperback novels, hardcover novels. I'm not ready to give up print for pixels just yet. I love my iPad, but I'm not willing to budge on this one just yet. Kids gotta have books.


Which brings me to this point: I think we have to do a better job getting middle school (grade 5-8) boys to keep up the habits of reading. I don't mean to sound gender-biased here; girls should be reading too! I think that there are more cultural pressures against boys reading by the time they are in middle school.

So I'm starting a series of posts here called "Books for Boys." Certainly girls might enjoy these books as well; that's not the point. The big idea is that I want to get ideas out there for books that teachers and parents might suggest to middle school boys to get them hooked.

I'll try to provide rationale for the books I'm selecting. Most of the time they're on my list because they are books I was able to get boys to read when I was a middle school teacher. I hope you find them useful, and please comment with further suggestions when you see these posts!

1 comment:

  1. My brother read "I Want to Go Home" by Gordon Korman to my sister and me when we were kids. It's really funny. In college, I read it to my cousins. I think you can find it in the US now, though it is a Canadian author.