Monday, June 4, 2007

Jon Scieszka: Guys Read

I'm teaching a fiction workshop for 4-6th graders this summer, and while trying to choose a balanced mix of books to use as examples, I came across a very cool website: Guys Read. (Thanks to Fuse #8 for pointing me in the right direction!)

Guys Read was created by author John Scieszka, perhaps best known for the Time Warp Trio Series and his wildly clever "fractured fairy tales" such as The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales. According to Mr. Scieszka:

  • A lot of boys are having trouble reading.
  • The U.S. Department of Education reading tests for the last 30 years show boys scoring worse than girls in every age group, every year.
  • Eighth grade boys are 50 percent more likely to be held back than girls.
  • Two-thirds of Special Education Students in high school are boys.
Guys Read is a web-based literacy program for boys. At Guys Read, you can:
  • See book recommendations for guys of all age groups
  • Suggest your own book recommendations
  • Learn about how to start a Guys Read group in your home town
You can read an interview with Jon Scieszka about Guys Read on the popular blog, Bookslut. Here's a great clip:

What are some things that parents can do in order to get their kids to enjoy reading?

Two things they can do most readily and easily is to, one, accept a really broad range of reading, and when your kid is reading newspapers and magazines, encourage that as reading. Information books, computer textbooks, reading online -- that's all reading, and that's a good thing. And then the second thing, that I think is hugely important, is [providing] some kind of male role model. Dads and brothers just have to get involved, because I think that it does so much, in so many more positive ways than what we've done before. When I was teaching I found that, too.

I was in second grade, when I started teaching, and some of my boys just took off as readers. And it was nothing particularly special that I did, it was just being there. Because I think they thought, "Oh, you can be a reader if you're a guy; you're not going to turn into a girl." Which I think is some weird kind of subconscious fear of theirs.

I think, through our culture and society, we're giving (kids) this message that reading is more of a feminine activity, because when you look around, it's your mom who is reading to you early on, it's women in the elementary school, it's women librarians, or women in publishing, too. And I think guys just subconsciously sort of absorb that message and go, "Oh yeah, this isn't for me."

I should mention that Jon Scieszka's regular website is fun to explore, too. (Definitely play the "Official Jon Scieszka Pronunciation Guide" clip for a chuckle.)

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