September 16, 2013

Let Them Be Boys!

In the past few years I've found myself rewriting, resending, and basically just resharing the following post. Since it's information I'm asked about so often, it suddenly dawned on me (I'm fast, that way) that it was worth blogging about.

I have a heart for helping boys find their voice in a world that tends to prefer they leave the rough and tumble at the door. Yes, by world I mean school - because when you're eight, nine, ten, or even older, school is your world. It's difficult for boys to become strong writers if they never have the opportunity to become strong readers. And many boys struggle to find a place as a reader, because their desire for blood, guts, vampires, and fart jokes is seen as unacceptable for school.

When we tell a child that their reading or writing choice is unacceptable, we may as well point at them and say, "You sir, are unacceptable."

I think that's when we lose many boys that so desperately need to be found.

For me, the important thing about boys is remembering they need to feel like they have a place and a say. Often, we let our own thoughts on what is appropriate dictate their reading and writing style, and it shuts them down.

They want to read Captain Underpants? Cool. Only will read Sports Illustrated for Kids? Good enough for me. Reading Stephen King? Eek, that terrifies me but if it’s working for them, more power to them! Refusing to even glance at anything that's not a comic book or graphic novel? Awesome. What better place to get excited about reading than a book filled with amazing illustrations, built-in scaffolding devices, and nonstop action? 

Let them know they have a choice – even if it seems completely backwards, and things will change. Comic books, blogs, magazines, picture books; if it has words and they’re not cussing or otherwise profane or harmful to anyone – let those boys read.

Some places for help:

Guys Read is an amazing website for books and other resources that boys will love. It has never failed me.

Any of the actual “Guys Read” books – each is a collection of short stories written by male authors with the intent of being interesting for boys. Also, this book by the same authors, all about what it means to be a boy.

Ralph Fletcher is another "can't miss" author for boys, and for teachers. Definitely check out Boy Writers and Spider Boy, for starters.

Any blog post by The Nerdy Book Club gang. This book-savvy blog is a mashup of posts on reading and includes several noteworthy book recommendations, written by teachers, librarians, and authors  -- basically anyone with a passion for reading and getting kids excited about reading. Follow this link to a search of all their posts on graphic novels.

And if you can get your hands on The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, it is so worth your time. It's one of those books that make you rethink your current practices, and we all need that from time to time.

When in doubt, just let them read. How can you go wrong when they happily have their nose in a book?

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