While I’ve perused thoughts about reluctant readers as a synonym for boys, I didn’t really make the connection to my own tween girl. But as I read the introductory pages to Best Books for Boys, I connected to one problem we face with reading. While we’ve evolved teaching styles to tap into the different ways of learning — visual, auditory, kinetic, etc — we’ve continued to think of reading in a rather stagnant way. But Allyn challenges those notions, especially with boys in mind, and presents new ways to approach reading at home and in the classroom.
She backs up her concepts with a large selection of titles with boy-appeal. Divided into categories like Expeditions, How-to, and Sports, the choices are also noted for their most appropriate reading level. The levels themselves are listed as emerging, developing, and maturing readers so as not to lock in rigid age ranges. The books are chosen with an eye toward boy interest, but include books as varied as the silly Captain Underpants and the literary masterpiece, The Book Thief. While I cannot agree with all of the selections — The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane for boys or The Boy with the Striped Pajamas for anyone — the tiles are current, diverse, and cross a broad spectrum. Certain books are even given discussion questions to open up conversation between the reader and parent/teacher.
Within the categories, Allyn offers additional titles with the signature “If you like this book, you’ll like:” — a phrase that has never worked for me. While I appreciated the extra titles allowed by the configuration, there were times it worked as well as Amazon’s random selections. If I like White Fang, I may indeed NOT like Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A selection of superhero picture books was marred by the inclusion of Kajikawa’s Tsunami! — which is a great book about someone who saves his village, but not a superhero book. Other times the lists seemed only to take space by listing multiple titles by the same author. When Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus is annotated, it’s unnecessary to list most other books that Mo Willems wrote — including the much younger board books. While the phrasing (“you’ll like”) and an occasional selection (“One of these things is not like the other...”) were unfortunate, the inclusion of extra, related books was very useful.
Given the kidlitosphere’s Poetry Friday connection, I was intrigued by Allyn’s statement that a book collection “should be at least 30 percent nonfiction books, 30 percent poetry and 40 percent fiction.” That seems like a lot of poetry considering the availability of new titles and the recommendations listed. I asked the author for more thoughts on that subject:
There is a wonderful availability of amazing titles in each of those genres for our children, and we generally tend to forsake the nonfiction and poetry for fiction, even though our boys truly love nonfiction and poetry... Nonfiction and poetry also offers more ample opportunities for “browsing” rather than having to read straight through, the way we do with fiction. A reader can pick up a book of poems and fall to the first page and enjoy that poem and close the book and go outside to play. But it’s much harder to fall upon a page in a chapter book and not feel you need more time for it. Having the real balance of genres allows the reader to become more adept at selecting books that match certain times, moods and interests far more easily.So, Poetry Friday carry on! Your mission is well-served. Let me also give a nod today to Nonfiction Monday, hosted today at Shelf-Employed, and Pam Allyn’s blog tour, of which this review is a part.
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