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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

The boys-who-hate reading book club

Reading wasn’t fun for Kathleen Carroll’s eight-year-old son. As a struggling reader, he spent his days “decoding worksheets and pamphlet-sized readers.” So she and another mother created a book club for boys who hate reading, she writes in Bright.

They started with the first Diary of a Wimpy Kid book. “It was a big-kid book, not the baby stuff they were told to read at school,” write Carroll. “They loved the vaguely scatological cartoons, the boy-centered story of middle-school humiliation, and the chance to hang out together.”

Other boys asked to join. The club grew to 10 boys, who meet every Thursday night to read, discuss, eat snacks and play tag.

“Reading with a buddy progressed to independent reading,” she writes. Boys went from reading 10 pages to 30 pages. Parents reported their book-hating sons reading and laughing for 30 minutes.

Her son hasn’t caught up complete in reading, but “he’s a better and more confident reader,” writes Carroll. He now sees children’s literature as “something designed for him and his friends — not just something that a teacher or parent forces kids to read.”

The club has moved on to the Lunch Lady series.

I tutored a first-grade girl who could read “cat,” sometimes got “sat,” but could not decode “mat.” Everything she was given to read was excruciatingly boring. Why struggle when the outcome will be a cat sitting on a mat?

I also worked with a boy who made enormous progress when his parents sent him to a Kaplan tutor, who taught him phonics. By spring, he was reading If You Give a Moose a Muffin. He was laughing.

Cool Classics, an after-school club for Chicago students, also tries to make reading fun.

“Over 25 after-school sessions, kids from prekindergarten to about fourth grade use the theme of a well-known children’s book — selections have included Pet of the Met by Don and Lydia Freeman, with its Mozart-loving mouse, and The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, about a bull who refuses to participate in bullfights — as a foundation for learning about and as a means to explore, well, life,” writes Rick Kogan in the Chicago Tribune.

In addition to reading and discussing the book, children do art and writing projects and visit galleries, museums, libraries and theaters.

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