Best Books for Boys: How to Engage Boys in Reading in Ways that Will Change Their Lives by Pam Allyn
176 pages, ISBN: 978-0545204552
When I was asked to review Pam Allyn’s Best Books for Boys – How to Engage Boys in Reading in Ways That Will Change Their Lives, I didn’t hesitate for second. It’s what I’ve been trying to do in my own way, for my 2 boys and for others, so I was definitely looking forward to reading her advice.
While the book is definitely geared towards teachers and would be a fantastic teaching resource, there is lots to take away for parents and anybody else interested in getting boys reading.
The book has 2 distinct parts: the first part provides an introduction and explanation of the READ model which helps set the stage for a reading life, and includes a questions and answer based discussion addressing the challenges some boys face with their reading. The second part provides a fantastic suggested reading list for boys, by reading level and area of interest.
I read the explanation of the READ (Ritual, Environment, Access, Dialogue) Model with great interest. So much of it rang true for me. We all know how important rituals are for our children, and we are reminded again how vital it is to include various reading activities in our daily routines. The section is full of suggestions on we can do this. Beyond the daily rituals of reading, Ms. Allyn goes on to describe the various ways teachers (and parents) can help cultivate a true love for reading by focusing on boys’ reading environments. I am in complete agreement with this. No reading program or ‘system’ will work if we don’t make reading ‘feel good’ for boys.
The question and answer-based discussion about the challenges facing boys was fascinating. What I most liked about it was how it was clear that Ms. Allyn does not necessarily value a specific ‘type’ of reading, and she seems to suggest that we should, for the most part, let boys be boys and have them read what they enjoy. This includes those ‘gross’ books that I often wonder about, reading online, magazines, comic books and graphic novels. Emphasis is placed on the act of reading itself, and not, as is often the case, on reading ‘the right’ books, whatever those may be. While I do hope that my boys will one day read and enjoy great classics, for the time being, as I help guide them on their path towards becoming life-long readers, I’m glad that somebody like Ms. Allyn agrees with me that reading should ‘feel good’. How we help make that happen for our young boys is often a mystery, which gets addressed with the many creative suggestions in this book.
Undoubtedly, the heart of the book is the annotated list of book recommendations. Not only is the list broken down into 19 distinct categories, making it easy to jump straight to the books that are most likely to interest your child or student, but each category is further broken down into 3-4 reading levels, from Emerging reader to Maturing.
Each book is shortly described, and some include ‘Talk About It’, questions one might ask to start or continue a discussion around the book’s theme. Some also include an ‘if you enjoyed this book…’ list of related or similar books.
I jumped to the sections that I thought would most appeal to my 2 boys, one being a Developing to Maturing reader, and the other being a Maturing reader, and found not only books that they had already read and definitely enjoyed, but also others that have been on our ‘to-read’ list. Of course, we have now added several more. So although I do not know many of the books on the list myself, from my own personal experience with my 2 boys, it does seem to recommend the right books.
I highly recommend this book to anybody that has an interest in getting boys to read, or building a home or classroom library that is geared towards encouraging reluctant readers. I know that I will be referring to it often!