Saturday, May 8, 2010

kids who write, kids who read

I've been paying a lot of attention lately to statements made by librarians and teachers of early readers about what boys like to read, and a common thread I've been hearing is something like, when a boy comes into the library, or when it's reading time in my classroom, I guide the boy over to the nonfiction stacks so he can find a book about venomous animals and stuff like that. (Definitely not all librarians and teachers express this... but an awful lot of them do)

I think there's a prevailing misconception out there that boy reader equals reader of nonfiction. Actually, literacy studies have shown that boys have no higher a degree of preference for nonfiction than girls do. Why is there this common buy-in, then, this assumption, that boys want to only read nonfiction?

I have some ideas on this, and they aren't very encouraging as to the creative future of our society. I'd be interested in hearing what readers think about this, though: Why do so many of us "grownups" assume that boy reader equals nonfiction reader?

I'm currently working on a bit for another blog about creative writing and boys. Working with the young writers I've started coaching this year (and I am very happy to say that two of my boys who write have been honored for their short fiction in Mrs. Nelson's 2010 Young Writers Contest), I've found that throughout their entire schooling, the emphasis in writing has steered them only toward linear, highly structured, expository writing.

The evil, consciousness-destroying "chunk paragraph."

But, deep down, kids really want to write. They want to be creative. But there is no room for coaching those abilities along in the school day, and the formulaic, structured, anti-inventive kind of writing they're boxed into churning out at school not only weakens their creative impulse, it actually makes them hate writing.

You don't have to believe me. Go talk to a hundred kids. You'll hear it from them.

So the writing, the reading, the lack of boy-friendly books, the assumptions we make about boys and reading and boys and creative writing -- they're all tied together, and I think it's not too late to undo some knots we've wrapped around kids' futures.

But if you have any ideas on the nonfiction question I posed, then post away.