Another great professional book to add to your summer reading is PAM ALLYN'S BEST BOOKS FOR BOYS: HOW TO ENGAGE BOYS IN READING IN WAYS THAT WILL CHANGE THEIR LIVES. This book is packed with great titles and information on helping boys engage in books, to become part of the culture of literacy. Pam Allyn is so knowledgeable when it comes to books and boys that she is a perfect person to write a book on this topic. I learned about her commitment to boys and literacy years ago when I read about her Books for Boys program at the Children's Village. I was thrilled to see that she brought her understanding about how to connect boys and books to this new resource for teachers and parents. This is a must-have resource for anyone interested in connecting boys to books.
We had the opportunity to interview Pam Allyn about her new book. Here is what she has to say:
What prompted you to write this book?
Pam: In my travels to classrooms around the country, the boys themselves ask me to please share with people the books they love. They are not finding a reading place in their classrooms. I was compelled to share this message by them.
What is your current thinking on the issue of Boys and Literacy? Why is this an issue that we need to pay attention to?
Pam: My current thinking is that we are in a very rocky place right now and that if we don't act quickly, we are going to see the results of poor statistics for boys in our prisons and our unemployment lines.
I’ve followed your work with the Boys’ Village over the years. Can you share a bit of the work that you’ve done there?
Pam: I started the books for boys campaign there nearly a decade ago to create a reading culture on campus there. This is a residential school for New York's foster care kids. It's ended up being all male just because that's where the need is. I started very simply: putting books in the boys' hands. I was amazed at how powerful the "right" book was to turn them on to reading. And by "right" I mean the book that connected with the boy's own passion or interest. I then recruited community members to come in and read to the boys. The read aloud plays a very central role in the initiative.
If you were to list 2-3 things that have made the most difference in turning the village into a reading community, what would those be?
Pam: One thing is that we never just throw books at kids. We really think a lot about the match up between boy and book and what is going to create that dynamic spark. The second thing is that we surround the reading with community. The boys there are lonely enough. We want them to see that reading is a way to be together. We've started Book Clubs and Poetry Slams that help the boys to see that by reading, we come together.
I love this line in the introduction of your book: “My work alongside teachers in schools across the country and the globe has taught me that simple changes in what we provide for boys and how we talk with them about the choices they make as readers can and will have profound impact on the outcomes we want for all readers.” What are some first steps teachers can take in order to better support boy readers in the classroom?
Pam: As teachers, we often ask questions we already know the answers to. I would encourage teachers to start with questions that are true and authentic. For example, simply asking our students: “What most interests you and how can we match those interests to what you read?” is a far more powerful question than: "Who is the main character in the book I've assigned?"
Can you talk a little bit about the categories of books that you share in your new book?
Pam: The categories in the books came directly from boys, teachers, librarians and parents i interviewed over these last years. The boys always want to be sure I've got the graphic novels in there, and poetry!
How did you go about choosing your “Best Picks” for each category?
Pam: This was so tough! I kept asking my wonderful editor if we could add pages onto the book! That's how difficult this was! For every great book in here, there are lots more out there! But I distilled them down to the great hits; the ones I loved the best because they were the ones that got the boys to read.
Can you talk about a few new books or authors that you think are especially appealing to boys who struggle with reading—a few must-read books for teachers to get started reading the books on your list?
Pam: The Big Nate series by Lincoln Pierce is funny and also well combined with amusing illustrations. We Are Not Eaten by Yaks by C. Alexander London is a terrific romp. Both of these books in series are great for reading aloud. I truly love Charles Smith's photographic picture book version of Langston Hughes' poem "My People". I love the image of the small boy in a reflective stance.
What suggestions do you have for ways teachers and parents can go about finding good books for the boys in their lives who don’t yet live their lives as readers?
Commit to this journey together. Let your boys know that you are inspired by them and that you want them to be inspired by books. Visit Indie bookstores together and talk with the shop owners. Browse together online at amazon and other great sites such as James Patterson's readkiddoread.com site. The journey towards the great book can be as motivational as the treasure we find at the end.
Pam's insights have so many messages for parents, teachers and librarians. You can read more about the new book at these blogs:
The Boy Reader
Snapshots of Mrs. V