Let's Talk About Boy's Literacy
In my role as Special Assignment Teacher Librarian I travel to 17 schools in the District to work with Teacher Librarians. One question I am guaranteed to be asked at pretty much every school is... "Do you have a list of good books for boys"?
Being a mom of two girls I have no family connection buying enticing books for boys. My husband does NOT read for pleasure (unless you count the Uncle John's Bathroom Reader that been in the downstairs bathroom since 2004). So I rely on research.
Dare to search the internet for research on boys' literacy and you will be inundated with studies, action research, opinion pieces and Ministry guidelines. One of the most recent publications is Me Read, and How?, an Ontario Teachers' Report On How to Improve Boys' Literacy. This publication is full of well researched pieces of information for teachers to use when planning for their literacy teaching. The ideas are great for boys (and not surprisingly for girls too)! Guidance and suggestions are given as to the types of books boys would be motivated to read.
Sometimes as educators we over think. As I was sifting through 'books for boys' lists and catalogues to order books for one of our elementary libraries, it dawned on me... Why not ask the real experts? I have a good many experts right here in the school! The boys in the four intermediate classrooms should know what boys might like to read. Armed with the lists from the 'experts' I dove into some discussion with the male contingent of our senior classes, and came away quite surprised. These boys were not interested in books about sports, nor animals, or random books of facts. These boys did not seem excited by the prospect of fiction based on skateboarding, basketball or hockey. Books in series did nothing to stir excitement. My research telling me that boys will devour classic fiction in graphic novel form was not received well by my experts!
So, in discussion with the Principal it was decided that we would empower these boys and give them choice of the books selected for the school library. Each of the four intermediate classes selected a representative to accompany me to Chapters to purchase books of their own choosing.
And bam...in preparation for this trip this team of 5 boys were asking for websites where they could look for titles, were visiting the library to see what the school already owned and were polling their classmates for suggestions.
The energy of these five boys on our book buying trip was tremendous. Each boy had a firm idea of the genre he was looking for. They had self organized a strategy so that they would not double up on the titles. One student even had a clipboard with a list of Manga title to hunt down. We had a budget of $500.00, so each boy was given $100.00 and they were off, calculators in hand!
I learned so much from these 11, 12 and 13 year old boys. These boys are from diverse backgrounds and all live in a struggling urban area. One of the boys had never been in a taxi before that day and two of them had never stepped foot in a bookstore. That lack of experience did not hold them back. They were respectful, listened eagerly to the brief book talk given by the Chapters staff, then they were off on their mission.
Here are a few of my favourite (and somewhat surprising) quotes from my boys’ book buying team.
"Mrs. Moore, we like playing sports, we don't like reading about them!" - Vu (When I was trying to direct him to the Sports section.)
"Manga is what we want, not that fake comic book type stuff, real Manga. You know they translate the text and it is way cooler in Japanese" - Raymond (When I was pulling out some graphic novels to share.)
"Boys like to read about vampires too. This one is about a zombie... that is even cooler." - Vu (Choosing the Forest of Hands and Teeth and the sequel by Carrie Ryan )
"I like Star Wars books and I am going to buy these novels even though they weren't in the Young Adult sections. I tested them out and the reading level is good." - Ben
"I like to read movie remakes of books because it makes me think of the movie and I like to know what is going to happen." - Jon (When explaining why he chose Diary of a Wimpy Kid and IronMan2 movie versions of the novels.)
"Wow, I better put back this gaming book - it has lots of guns. Really Miss, lots of games aren't THAT violent." - Jon
"I didn't know books were so expensive. I'm going to find some good ones in the bargain section." - Vu
Below is a Bitstrips comic strip inspired by 3 of my book buying team!
For a list of the titles the boys selected that day take a look at the Benson Library Wiki. Feel free to add their list of books for boys to those you have collected which are compiled by researchers. This 'books for boys' list was compiled by the real experts, the students themselves!
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