A month or so ago, I received an email asking if I would be willing to review Pam Allyn's BEST BOOKS FOR BOYS on my blog. As the mom of two aliterate high school athletes, I was more than happy to oblige. My boys have spent their high school years reading the classics that I read in high school: CATCHER IN THE RYE (not to be confused with CATCHER OF THE RYE BREAD, as it has come to be known at our house), TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD ("We have to go buy some old book about a bird tonight, but I can't remember the title"), and GRAPES OF WRATH (Have you ever heard of this guy named John Steinberg?). We have also read other titles bound to capture the attention of every normal adolescent: SNOW IN AUGUST and ROOTS, for example. While I know that all of these books are important, all I want for my boys is that that read; that they know the power of a good book (or poem, or article, etc) -- to entertain, or inform, or escape, or transform. And that simply isn't happening in their lives…
I was delighted, then, to read PAM ALLYN'S BOOKS FOR BOYS. The book is divided into three parts. The first section is an introduction and overview. The second section is a question and answer format (e.g. What if boys are highly active and don't want to sit still to read? What about online reading? How can I build boys' confidence as readers? How can I get boys interested in girl books?). Lots of these would be terrific discussions for professional development.
The third section is a phenomenal list of books divided by topic (e.g. Action and Adventure, Art and Music, Mystery and Horror, Expeditions, Humor, Math and Numbers, Biographies, Technology ) and then further divided by reading/emotional stage (Emerging, Developing, Maturing). Many of the titles are accompanied by sublists (if you liked this book, you will also like…) or topics for conversation. I was super impressed by the booklists- I think I'm pretty conversant in this area and there were LOTS of titles that I had never heard of.
Allyn's book has been featured on several different blogs this moth. You can read reviews at SNAPSHOTS OF MRS. V , THE LITERACY TOOLBOX and READING REWARDS. My friend Kyle interviewed Pam at THE BOY READER earlier this week.
I decided that rather than review the book, I would simply pull out a few quotes I loved, and leave you to swish them around in your mind:
In the great picture book and true story by Mordecai Gerstein, The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, the performance artist Philippe Petit practices for years to walk on a tightrope wire between the two World Trade Towers. “He looked not at the towers but at the space between them and thought, what a wonderful place to stretch a rope.”
Reading can feel as risky as walking a tightrope even if it doesn’t look nearly as daring. It can be so public in the classroom that a boy who wants to hide his vulnerability might prefer resistance to falling in front of his peers. This book is about fortifying our teaching so that our boys see the space between and say “What a wonderful place to stretch a rope.” 7
My mission is to help all children achieve not only functional literacy but transformational literacy. The kind of literacy that will allow them to learn something new every day, connect to all people everywhere, and to invent new ideas that could change the world.—And in this process, to learn, through reading, how to be the kind of person they want to become. 9
Absorption is the one key quality I believe is missing from our instruction. We jump from skill to skill, activity to activity. Let’s create a sanctuary around the independent reading time so that boys can dig in, discover, wander and explore. 21
The problem is not that boys are “too active,” the problem is that our classrooms do not allow them to be themselves. 23
The best way to promote reading for pleasure is to LET KIDS READ.
Make sure your number one priority is EYES ON TEXT. Make sure each and every day you are giving your boy readers ample opportunity to read and that minutes spent reading is really minutes spent reading and not mostly you talking about the reading.