Tuesday, May 27, 2008

the experiment

I'm going to step back for a moment from this week's BEA blogging and revisit some important ideas about boys and reading, and increasing literacy among boys.

For as much as has been debated about the questionable effectiveness of No Child Left Behind, the results of NCLB have actually had a more profoundly negative effect on boys. Although NCLB data is routinely NOT desegregated by genders, we know that today, boys in grades 4 - 8 are typically 2 - 3 years behind girls when it comes to reading level.

We also know that no children of either gender consider themselves to be "non readers" in early grades, but by high school, a little more than half of all boys consider themselves to be non readers.

Sounds like we're leaving a few children behind.

We can fix this. Remember, this was not the case 30 years ago, but now statistics show us that boys are underrepresented in all High School level Advance Placement courses with one exception: Physics.

I warn you now, I am going to repeat those preceding paragraphs in next week's posts (after BEA). They are too important to forget.

In future posts, I'll be talking about some more of the philosophical ideas presented by thinkers such as Michael Gurian and William Brozo, but, for now I'd like to talk about a little experiment (well, not so little, really) that will be conducted this summer in the (Santa Clarita, CA) William S. Hart High School District's Intensive Literacy Program (ILP).

Among the strategies suggested by Teacher Librarian Magazine to increase boy readership are to purchase boy-friendly lists of Young Adult literature, and to do such things as display posters from ALA and YALSA that depict male writers in the classroom. What the Hart School District is going to do in their literacy program this summer is pretty radical: they are going to hold boy-only literacy classes and the book they are planning on using for the very important "Read Aloud" component and follow-up activities will be Ghost Medicine. So, I'll have a chance to visit these classrooms and talk with these boys as they go through the summer program, which I am very excited about.

Also, we'll be keeping very close track of successes and challenges in this program (thanks to the people who coordinate the ILP program), and we'll talk about those findings right here as the classes progress.

This is really cool. Ultra cool.

So, after the next couple of BEA posts, I'm going to climb right back onto my soapbox about getting boys to be more positive about themselves when it comes to reading and writing. I want to talk about the benefits (and challenges) of boy-only classes, why certain educational activities turn boys off to reading and writing (and what kinds excite them), and about plans to get a group of boys next fall and turn them into authors.


But for now, the focus is on Book Expo America.

Little note: The photo on this post (and ALL of these photos are my original work) is for Lewis Buzbee. I had the very distinct pleasure of receiving an advance copy of Lewis' forthcoming Steinbeck's Ghost. I could not put that novel down. I tore through it in one day, and I loved it. I am truly looking forward to meeting Lewis (who will be signing galley copies of Steinbeck's Ghost) at BEA this weekend.