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Jen Robinson reviews and writes about children books. She blogs at Jen Robinson's Book Page. Read more »
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All of the tips that I proposed last week for encouraging summer reading apply to both boys and girls. However, there is widespread concern that boys aren't reading as much or as well as girls are. Studies by the U.S. Department of Education show that boys score worse than girls on reading at every age range. (See Guys Read.) As reported recently in the Huffington Post, "the 2010 Kid and Family Reading Report found that regardless of race, geography or socioeconomic status, boys were lagging far behind girls in reading outside of school assignments."
Many different studies validate the points that a) boys' reading scores are worse than girls' scores and b) boys spend less time reading than girls do. Of course "a" follows "b." You get good at something by doing it. If boys aren't reading, they don't have a chance to improve, and thus they find reading more frustrating and don't want to do it. And so the cycle continues.
Many people are working on the issue of boys and reading. Reading Rockets has offered resources specific to boys and books for years. Jon Scieszka, the former U.S. National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, founded an organization called Guys Read. The mission of Guys Read is "to motivate boys to read by connecting them with materials they will want to read, in ways they like to read.” Pam Allyn, the executive director of LitWorld, a nonprofit that promotes global literacy, recently published Pam Allyn's “Best Books for Boys: How to Engage Boys in Reading in Ways That Will Change Their Lives.”
These resources offer a number of potential reasons for the trouble that some boys have with reading, ranging from biology (boys develop reading skills more slowly, and don't like to sit still to read) to sociology (a lack of male role models for reading, and a perception that reading isn't cool). The point made in the above-referenced Huffington Post article is that part of the issue of boys not reading is one of perception. Although they may not be reading as much as girls are, boys ARE reading. They just aren't necessarily reading the books that their mothers and aunts and (primarily female) teachers want them to read. They're reading comic books, box scores, user manuals, joke books and various other forms of nonfiction.
I think that there's truth to this, but I also think that it's not good enough to broaden one's definition of reading and conclude that there isn't a problem. Boys' reading scores are still lagging - we need to make some extra effort to get them to spend more time reading. But I do think that accepting the different formats that boys choose as valid types of reading is part of the solution.
Here are a few specific tips for encouraging boys to read this summer:
- Bearport Publishing's various nonfiction series (Fast Rides, Animals with Super Powers, etc.)
- The Secrets series by Pseudonymous Bosch
- The Skeleton Creek and Trackers series by Patrick Carman (these are multi-platform series that involve websites in the reading experience)
- The Underland Chronicles series by Suzanne Collins
- The DK Readers series (lots of fiction and nonfiction titles)
- The Final Four Mystery series by John Feinstein
- The Squish series by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
- The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney
- The Lunch Lady series by Jarrett Krosoczka
- The Percy Jackson and Kane Chronicles series by Rick Riordan
- The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart
- The Frankie Pickle series by Eric Wight
Also try anything (subject to age guidelines, of course) by:
- Tom Angleberger
- Mike Lupica
- Gary Paulsen
- Jon Scieszka
- Jordan Sonnenblick
I noticed as I made these lists that they are a bit fiction-heavy. If any of you have recommendations for authors or series to try for boys that are nonfiction, I would be particularly interested to hear about them.
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