"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." —J. R. R. Tolkien

Monday, September 28, 2009

Why Boys Aren't Reading

Some of you may know I volunteer one day a week at my son's elementary school library. Why do I love this?
  • First, I get to be there when my son's class comes in.
  • Second, the kids recognize me.
  • Third, I'm around books, get to see what's checked out, get to read once all the books are shelved.
  • And fourth, the kids ask me for recommendations. This, I think, is my favorite part. (okay, actually it's seeing my son, but this is a close second).
Anyway, most of the time, the kids who ask for recommendations are the boys, especially in the fantasy section. This past week I recommended GREGOR THE OVERLANDER and CITY OF EMBER to name a couple.

I noticed a couple weeks ago fliers being handed out advertising a mother/daughter book club. Great idea, isn't it, and I've always thought once my five-year-old daughter is old enough, I would love to do this with her. But this past week it dawned on me—why is it always a mother/daughter book club? What about the boys?

We talk about how boys stop reading as they get older. We make lists of recommended books for the boys to get them to read. But are we part of the problem by not encouraging it as a "boy" activity even at a young age? When boys see these fliers for book clubs, does it associate reading with girls? Does it make reading seem less cool. Ask yourself does it encourage them to read more or less?

I'm going to do my part, not to get boys reading, but to KEEP boys reading. I vow to start a son/parent book club next year when my son hits fourth grade. It seems like the perfect age to nurture the love of reading I see in so many boys who walk into that library. They want to read cool books.
So who's with me? Who's willing to start their own son/parent book club?


More personal notes:

Special thank you to Reader Rabbit for the awesome review of THE NAVEL OF THE WORLD. My favorite line from the review:
"The Navel of the World is one of those wonderful times where the sequel of a series is even better than the first. It was funnier, more original and faster paced. This book was just so much fun to read!

Have you been curious about Critter? Check out his newest adventures with Beth Revis at Writing it Out! have fun, Critter!

If you live in the Austin area, please come to a joint book release party I'm having with Jessica Lee Anderson, author of the upcoming BORDER CROSSING.
Sunday, October 18th, 2009

And have a great week!


Christine M said...

A son/parent book club sounds like a great idea! I'm in!
And great review!

PJ Hoover said...

Great, Chris! Harry would be a great age for it!

Carrie Harris said...

Heck yeah! My son's still a little young for this, but once he's old enough I'll definitely get on it.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

I'm so with you. As a former teacher and as a mother of two boys, I am fully aware that interest in reading drops around third grade.

My fabulous principal has allowed me to create three after-school book clubs (one for third, one for fourth and fifth, and one for sixth and seventh). While my boy:girl ration drops after third, I do have boys still reading with me. For those boys who don't come, I continue to seek them out and recommend books.

One key way to keep readers reading is to continue to read aloud. See my guest post today at http://www.steadymom.com/2009/09/reading-aloud-to-older-kids.html

Anna said...

Great idea! If I had a son I would totally bring him to a son/parent book club. I've actually been thinking about volunteering at a library in my town - maybe I can get them to start one.

writtenwyrdd said...

You make a great point. We do seem to socialize boys against recreational reading.

What I want to know is why it's a mom/daughter book club instead of a parent/child? Reading is a unisex sort of activity after all... Although it might be the type of books that makes people want to divide the genders...which might be another problem all together.

PJ Hoover said...

You think he's too young, Carrie! You could have a bookgroup on Goodnight Moon :)

Thanks for the comment, Caroline! I've also thought about a mixed book club, making sure to keep the numbers even if possible. So third grade...sigh.

You will love volunteering there, Anna! I find it really rewarding. And how cool if they/you could start a book club.

At this age the books picked don't seem to be gender divided yet, D. Lynn. They are reading FOUND right now. There are so many great books that cross the gender lines, aren't there!

Angela said...

Great idea, PJ. Keep us posted on it--I hope you get lots of takers from parents in your school.

Solvang Sherrie said...

I'm in!

My son and I love reading books together and talking about them forever. He's in 5th grade and we have similar tastes in books so we'd be all over that.

BTW, great book recommendations - those are some of my personal favorites!

PJ Hoover said...

I hope so, too, Angela! I think it will be a blast.

Yay, Sherrie! You'd be great to start a book club!

Vonna said...

I would love to do this, and my sixth grade son would love it, too. However, we have run into a problem: While girls seem to readily cooperate in reading the same book to discuss regardless of whether it is one they would choose on their own, the boys we know who love to read (and we know many) are not willing to do the same. They say they get enough of this at school in their language arts classes.

If any of you are successful in getting a boy's book club together I would love to hear how you did it.

Danyelle said...

I'd never thought about that--the mother daughter book clubs and how that might affect boys' perceptions of books. I've been fortunate in that all my kidlets are a bit like Mommy when it comes to books--we need them the way we need air to breathe! Congrats on your review!

PJ Hoover said...

Thanks for commenting, Vonna! I'm wondering if capturing them early (like 4th grade) will make a difference. Or maybe just the start of more book clubs for boys. True, we don't want to force reading on them, but so many that I see through our library love to read.
Thanks for stopping by!

I'd never thought about it either, Danyelle. But there are so many mother/daughter clubs. And thus far, my son is like yours - loves to read!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Great idea, PJ! I don't have a young son but I hope your idea catches on. By the way, did you read the week-long discussion on gender-in-reading at Kirby Larson's (Hattie Big Sky) blog? It was super. I'm running out to a crit group this second but if you can't find it I can add the link later. Bye!

Tabitha said...

What a fantastic idea!!! When my oldest son is old enough, I'm totally going to do this same thing. He already loves to read, and I'm going to do everything I can to keep that alive.

Kelly said...

Even a child/parent book club would be great.
I love volunteering in my kids school too. I seriously miss them all day, and it's nice to see them interact with their peers.

Miriam S.Forster said...

That's an awesome idea! My old church used to have a mother/son night every few months, but I don't think there was reading involved. :)

If I had a son, I'd be all over this. As it is, I've been exercising my boy-reading radar by finding YA for my husband to read. He's VERY picky...

PJ Hoover said...

I didn't read it, Tricia, but I'll google to find the link. I'd love to check that out! Thanks!

Ditto, Tabitha! I want my kids to love to read always!

I was thinking the same thing, Kelly, to have a mixed gender one, but to make sure the guys are represented, too.

What a fun idea, Miriam. A mother/son night. It's so important.

Thanks for visiting, everyone!

Keri Mikulski said...

Great idea!! :)

Tess said...

oh that is a really fantastic idea. All of the mothers will think you are brilliant :)

And, congrats on the super cool review - how fun.

beth said...

I am amazed when I talk to high school kids about books.

The vast majority "don't read" (which breaks my heart every time I hear it).

Of the boys that *do* read, I'd say half read fantasy/sf (typically the epic stuff, typically the old stuff, like Tolkein). A quarter read magazines, usually Japanese manga. And a quarter read the girl's books--Twilight is immensely popular, even with the boys, and has been a gateway into other "girl" books, such as Vampire Academy, those books about Kushiel something?, etc.

My point: very very VERY few boys in my high school read (or at least read openly) current books. They are much MUCH more likely to re-read Tolkein (or Paolini, who's also quite popular) than to branch out into new things--or read the same series of manga.

The exception are the boys who read "girls" books--they are the ones much more wililng to try new things..and they are the minority of the minority of boys who read books.

MG Higgins said...

Anything that encourages boys to read is such a fantastic idea. I hope you give it a try! (No boys of my own or I'd join you.)

Robyn Campbell said...

Great idea! And you're just the person to do this. :)

And I met Critter. If SOMEONE would send me the pic I'd post it on my blog. Hmmm. :)

PJ Hoover said...

Thanks, Keri!

Thanks, Tess! The more I think about it, the better an idea it sounds!

*stabs a knife in my heart* Beth. Oy. It brings up the bigger question, too, of when YA books are considered too young by teens.
I have to say I love the idea of guys reading the gal books. I think this would make for some fascinating book discussion groups.

I will give it a go, MG! My son is already negotiating which books we can pick.

Thanks, Robyn! And I can't wait to see the pic of you and Critter!

beckylevine said...

I think it's a great idea. I wish I'd thought to save the link, but there was a tweet link to some towns getting a "Real Men Read" thing going--where they get guys in the community to pose, reading, for posters, then come to the school & talk with the boys who aren't getting or staying hooked. It seemed to be really having results. LOVE you guys who come up with ideas like these!

B.J. Anderson said...

That is a really awesome idea. And I have a little boy who's going to be reading soon, but my husband is an avid reader, so I'm hoping by watching him, he'll get the right idea.

ReadingTub said...

That is an awesome idea. I have asked about starting an after school book club at my daughter's elementary school as one of the FREE enrichment offerings and was told no one would come. I would love to snag and hook some third grade boys with some good books!

PJ Hoover said...

I saw a "real men read" shirt last week at a librarian event, Becky. Loved it! It was so perfect and conveys such a great message.

We work to set the same example at home, BJ, though my husband is more of an audiobook kind of guy. I'll have to mention it to him :)

Thanks for stopping by, Terry! There are so many great books for elementary boys; I can't believe the response would be that no one would come!

Lady Glamis said...

So excited for your new book to come out!

If I had a son I'd start a son/parent book club. My friend has three boys. I should have her start something. She would LOVE that because she loves to read.

T. Anne said...

I agree getting my boys decent books to read has always been a challenge. Good for you!

Sarah Rettger said...

They do exist, Tricia! We have at least one mother-son book club that gets their selections from my store. I don't remember most of what they've picked, but Adam Canfield of the Slash and Trouble Don't Last were two of them.

Vonna said...

The closest I've come to a boys' book club was getting kids going into sixth grade this summer, boys and girls, to fill out a survey that I've put on my blog. The response from the boy really outweighed the girls'.

When my fourth grade son who loves to read ran out of interesting books, an older boy who had liked the same books when he was younger as my son currently liked recommended a book to my son. It was a hit.

So I thought it would be a good idea to have a site where kids would list the books they had loved in each grade, so younger kids with similar tastes would have a trail to follow.

I'm still building the database, so if you have kids who are either looking for a good book or would like to tell about their favorites, please take a look at the Book Paths sections of my site: vonnacarter.com

There is a questionnaire for kids to fill out if they would like to participate.

Kelly H-Y said...

What a great idea ... and so important to do for our boys! Critter looks like he's having fun ... I got a kick out of Beth's last post! :-)

PJ Hoover said...

Thanks, Michelle! And you should talk to your friend and get her to start a club!

Boys really seem to fall off the wagon, T. Anne. I'm hoping that never happens with mine!

How encouraging, Sarah! Thank you for the comment. I'm glad they do exist and that they shop!

I will totally take a look Vonna! What a fantastic idea and how awesome of you to arrange it!

Beth's last post cracked me up, Kelly! Critter is certainly having a blast!

Thanks for visiting, everyone!

Christina Farley said...

I think one of the reasons is so many woman write for younger age kids. Men really do write differently. The success boy books written by women are often really differently formated than girl books. Boys brains definitly are weird differently. I was reading in a brain development book that even the colors boys and girls prefer are different. Something to think about.

Jason said...

This is exactly what I'm going to work towards. As a soon to be teacher, and when I become a parent, I plan on working to make sure that I can keep as many children reading as I can.

adrienne said...

Interesting thoughts on boys and reading. It also seems to me there's a bigger selection of books geared to girls, especially when you get into YA. My daughter has a much easier time finding reading material than my son does.

Shelli said...

love the son/parent idea. lets do father/son and get our hubbys to read too! :)

PJ Hoover said...

Very interesting, Christina! I don't think I ever realized how different boys and girls were until I had a son :)

Excellent, Jason! You will be perfect for it!

So many more books geared toward girls, Adrienne! It's actually astounding, but girl books are selling.

Yes on the hubbies, Shelli! It's such a great family activity!

Heather Zundel said...

That is such a good idea I had never thought about it (I really should have). Hmmm... I wonder if I can somehow make a recommendation to my library...

Vonna said...

This morning while driving the carpool, I found out that my son's sixth grade language arts class has started an in-class book club.
The kids were given several books to choose from then given time to read their chosen book alone. Later, the class will break up into discussion groups of kids who chose the same book.
My son sounded very proud of this program and is looking forward to the discussion day. His friend was dubious, but not unwilling. I can't wait to see how this turns out.

PJ Hoover said...

I hope your library takes your recommendation, Heather!

What a wonderful program, Vonna! I'm sure your son will continue to enjoy it!

Pen Pen said...

I think that is a very important thing! I know many MEN who haven't read even ONE book the whole way through! SO sad! They need to be started early!

Also- I got your book, 'The Emerald Tablet' as a gift last month and finished it in one day-I just didn't sleep :) I've only done that with one other book ever!!
HAD to tell you HOW much I LOVED it! I didn't even realize u had a blog until like 20 minutes ago when I saw the giveaway on 'Writing it Out'!! I'm so glad I could pop over here and say I LOVED YOUR WORK!!!

PJ Hoover said...

Okay, you are officially my new favorite person, Penny! THANK YOU! I'm so glad you came by the blog, and I'm thrilled you loved THE EMERALD TABLET!