Monday, May 23, 2011

Supporting Boys as Readers: A review of 'Best Books for Boys'

I have written a number of posts on this blog dealing with 'Boys and Reading' because I am often asked by parents and teachers for advice on the topic. How can we encourage boys to read? Is there a problem with too much time on computers? Should I let him read so many graphic novels? What's the key to getting my son to read anything? When should I stop reading to him? What's my viewpoint on gross books like 'Captain Underpants'? Do I have list of great books for boys?  Like me, US reading advocate, teacher and writer Pam Allyn has been asked these and many more questions and has recently written a book that tries to answer some of them. As well, she has prepared a wonderful annotated list of books suitable for boys.

'Pam Allyn's Best Books for Boys'

The book has a simple format. It introduces the 'R-E-A-D model' for supporting children's reading and follows this with a section in which common questions about boys and reading are answered. This is then followed by Pam Allyn's annotated list that runs for 130 pages and takes up the majority of the book's 176 pages.

The R-E-A-D model offers a simple way to remember four key elements that will help to create a 'reading life' for boys:

R - Ritual - Boys need rituals around reading. This reminds us to set some patterns in boys' lives so that books and reading in all its forms have a place.
E - Environment - To encourage boys to read we need to create spaces that invite reading, with comfort and appeal.
A - Access - You need to immerse boys in books and reading; provide them with lots of different books and reading material with variety and interest.
D - Dialogue - It is important to talk to boys about the things they read, this makes the experience of reading a more socially satisfying one and offer boys a way to share something of their own lives. 

The annotated list is wonderful.  It offers a rich list of books described in reasonable detail and categorized by topic. The categories include 'action and adventure', 'Biographies and Memoirs', 'Fantasy & Imagination', 'Comics & Graphic Novels', 'Humour', 'Mystery & Horror', 'Math & Numbers', 'Poetry', 'Science & Space', 'Nature & the Animal World', 'Mechanics & Technology' and many more. 

Within each topic category Pam Allyn organizes the books into three difficulty levels, 'Emerging', 'Developing' and 'Maturing'. While the categories are very broad they offer a simple way for parents and teachers to make choices. At times she differentiates further if the book is borderline by using a combined rating, for example, D>M suggesting between 'Developing' and 'Maturing'.

There are many other helpful touches. Within some book descriptions (typically 50-100 words) Allyn at times suggests other books which readers will like if they've enjoyed the book reviewed. For other books she simply offers suggestions for discussion and response.

In short, this is an excellent book which parents and teachers will find very helpful as a resource to encourage boys to be avid and successful readers.

About Pam Allyn

Pam Allyn is the Executive Director and founder of LitWorld, a global organization advocating for children’s rights as readers, writers and learners. She is also the Executive Director and founder of LitLife, a national organization dedicated to school improvement. She is the author of 'What To Read When: The Books and Stories To Read With Your Child–And All The Best Times To Read Them' (Penguin Avery). Her most recent book is 'Pam Allyn’s Best Books for Boys: How To Engage Boys in Reading in Ways That Will Change Their Lives' (Scholastic). Her forthcoming book 'Your Child’s Writing Life' (Penguin Avery) will be released on 2 August 2011. Pam Allyn is the author of What to Read When which is a book for parents, teachers, and caregivers, published by Penguin. She published a successful professional book, 'The Complete 4: How to Teach Reading and Writing Through Daily Lessons, Monthly Units and Yearlong Calendars' with Scholastic in 2007. She followed this with a series of grade level books written with colleagues, The Complete Year in 2008.

Other Posts on Boys and Books

'Boys, Gross Topics & Books' HERE
All posts on 'Boys and Reading' on this blog HERE

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