Books for boys

Children’s authors and illustrators — mostly male — told 300 teachers and librarians — mostly female — how to hook boys on books, reports Mary Ann Zehr in Education Week.

Boys like to read books about trucks, boys who get into trouble, sports, animals, and war. More than girls, they lean toward nonfiction. And don’t forget the humor or action in stories.

Boys like a mixture of action and emotion, said Jack Gantos, who specializes in “books about bad boys,” such as the Rotten Ralph and Joey Pigza series.

A theme in his books is that the characters are loved unconditionally, even if they mess up a lot, which he said is something that children can identify with.

A British teacher may have gone a bit too far, when she tried to encourage teen-age boys to read by writing a sexy novel featuring herself and her male students. It was all for a good cause, writes Richard Whitmire of Why Boys Fail.

Leonora Rustamova was suspended for her racy novel, Stop! Don’t Read This!, which “includes underage drinking, hints of drug use and “pupil fantasies” about sex with the teacher.

Five 15- and 16-year-old boys had asked for a story about themselves, she told the BBC.

“In their being a difficult audience, the material had to be quite risque to give them an excuse to listen to it — to 16-year-old boys that are disaffected, story time is for small children.”

One of the boys, 17-year-old Travis, told BBC Radio 5 Live the novel was the first book he had ever read on his own and that he had now read other books.

The principal supported the idea — until the book was published on the Internet.  Rustamova’s husband had wanted to print copies of the book for the five boys; by mistake, it was published online for everyone to read. This led to charges of unprofessional conduct.

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  1. Ragnarok says:

    And people wonder why there ain’t no discipline at school? With air-heads like Ms. Rustamova pandering to a group of “disaffected” boys, we can expect great things.

  2. I read the article and I think they have it wrong. In my opinion the problem is not that the books aren’t out there. I think the problem is that we expect less of the boys and they meet those expectations. I will never forget the day my son came home with a choice from the library, selected just for him by the librarian … Captain Underpants. This for a boy who had already finished The Chronicles of Narnia (in their original order he likes to say). I personally returned that book to the library and suggested if the librarian needed help in the library during my son’s library time, I would be more than happy to come and volunteer (she never did call).

    Why aren’t we reading to our boys like we read to our girls? Why can’t we send our boys off with adventure classics and show them that classic does not mean boring? Why don’t we have mother/son book clubs just like we have mother/daughter book clubs? Why don’t you take your son to a book signing?

    I don’t think the problem is a lack of books for boys. (But go ahead and bring them on … if they are good we will read them.) I think the problem is that we read less with our boys and expect less of them. Let’s be honest, the problem starts at home.