Monday, June 9, 2008

summer reading

Okay. I need to say this little bit again, and anyone with a decent memory, or anyone who has raised a child through the first few grades of primary school will likely agree.

What is it that kids want to learn more than anything else when they first start school? Of course, we all know kids want to learn how to read and write. I remember from my own schooling, which was centuries ago, and my own kids' experience that there was such a sense of accomplishment in reading those first simple storybooks; and making legible words -- a name (usually just the first name and a last initial with a period) -- out of those nervous and squiggly lines.

And, if you ask any kid, boy or girl, in first or second grade if they love to read... they will all tell you they LOVE reading and writing.

So... WHY do more than 50% of boys surveyed consider themselves to be "non-readers" by the time they get in to high school? And why do boys entering high school in grade 9 typically lag behind girls by 3 to 4 grade levels in reading and writing? It didn't used to be like this, and we can't blame TV and video games.

This coming week, a school district in Santa Clarita, California, is piloting three all-boy intensive literacy classes for high school students, and they will be using Ghost Medicine as their read-aloud novel. It's been chosen for a number of reasons, in particular because it emphasizes some of the key elements that boys want to read about. Also, because the classes are boy-only, the instructional methods steer away from cooperation, group work, and reflective "feelings-based" assignments (which are all very difficult things for boys to do in mixed-gender classes) and allow for more male-like processing of the learning, including competitiveness.

I'll get to go and visit some of these classes and read to the boys and talk to them over the summer, and, of course, I will keep posting what I get to see going on there.

As far as I'm concerned, summer is the best time for reading. It's when I do most of my reading for the entire year, and I've already torn through a stack of books I picked up at Book Expo America. During summer, I also become a book voyeur, because I love to sneak around and see what people are reading on airplanes, at the beach, or sitting around the poolside at a hotel. One of these days, I hope to catch someone reading Ghost Medicine in such a setting, and when I do, I am sure I'll make a complete idiot of myself.

Happy summer.