Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Book Review: Pam Allyn's Best Books for Boys

To be honest, I've never written a "true" book review before, so y'all are just going to have to wing this one with me. ;)

About the book:

I'm going to make this short and sweet because I'm going to give you more detail in the section where I give you my take on the book! This book is written literally with boys in mind (in case you didn't pick up on that from the title)... and how to get and keep them engaged in literacy. The first several pages are meant to give you a background of why she wrote the book, along with some statistics about how literacy (or lack thereof) affects boys. She gives a few real world classroom examples, discusses using the READ model to help encourage reading without making it a chore, and then takes about 10 pages to answer some FAQ's about boys and reading. For the majority and remainder of the book, she has an incredibly extensive, annotated list of books grouped by emergent, developing, and maturing readers as well as by subject. Some books even include a "Talk About It" section that gives you ideas on how to pull your boy readers into a conversation (since children are social readers) about that particular book.

My take on the book:

I've been a classroom teacher for 5 years now, which is realize isn't long... but I've spent that time reading tons of books on the subject of literacy as well as surfing blogs and other places to find ways to match my passion of reading and pass it along to my students. To be honest, the first 30 pages didn't really tell me anything I hadn't already read somewhere before, especially in books such as The Book Whisperer, Reading With Meaning, or either of The Sister's books (The Daily 5, or CAFE). However, like I've said before, I go above and beyond on my professional literature so for someone who hadn't read the previously mentioned books, this book has a goldmine of information waiting for you to help aide in pulling those boys in and getting them excited and interested in literacy.

The underlying message: Children need to take ownership of their reading and have choice in what they read in order to best benefit from the experience. They need to be comfortable with where they are reading, and they need a strong support system in place in order to be truly successful. We as teachers (and parents) need to listen to what they have to say and provide books for them in their reading zone (close to their level) as well as in something their interested in, and we need to constantly be exposing them to different kinds of literacy: computers, books, magazines, graphic novels, comics, etc...

The part that really grabbed me and will have me telling you right now to buy this book, is the annotated list of books she provides by approximate age of students and interest or genre. This is literally what takes up most of the book, and provides a wealth of resources right at your fingertips to help you plan your small groups, your read-aloud, or even to recommend to that student that you just can't seem to find a book they're interested in.

I, personally, think that teachers shouldn't be the only ones to read this book... I think parents would greatly benefit from this information as well. How many parents do you think realize that 80% of high school dropouts are boys? Or that illiteracy rates make it twice as likely that nonreaders will go to jail later in life?? Pam mentions the dangers of having kids read out loud (an unfortunate still commonplace practice in many classrooms - not mine!) and how it can emotionally damage them as well as cause them to hate reading. My husband is one of those people, and this is a battle we are going to have to fight after our son is bored - it's important to me that my son sees both of his parents as readers, not just his mom... his dad will make a huge impact on his whole life, not just his literate one. (Another thing Pam discusses in the beginning of her book.)

I also know several teachers that I'd love to wave this book in front of and scream and go "Hey look! It's another book that has statistics and encourages kids to read for FUN instead of doing whole class novels and worksheets!!" Of course, there's far more to this book than that message alone, but it's still a powerful one. If you teach, if you have a son at home... this book would be a valuable asset to own. Not only does it reiterate what you probably already feel in your heart about how you teach reading and view literacy, it provides a ton of books to flip through to help engage your kids in your class - not just boys. I know plenty of girls that like some of the books I saw listed as well. :)

Click on the picture below and it will take you straight to Amazon... put it on your summer reading list!

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