March 15, 2005

What boys like to read.

Here's an article in The Washington Post about teaching boys and girls to read. (Via Memeorandum.) I'm wading past the blather about what's innate. Girls are better at language? Just don't say girls are worse at math and science or you'll be wandering into Larry Summers territory, and people might get so mad, they'll want to strip you of your job. Anyway:
"A lot of teachers think of reading as reading stories," said Lee Galda, professor of children's literature at the University of Minnesota. "And in fact, a lot of boys, and not just boys, like nonfiction. But we keep concentrating on novels or short stories and sometimes don't think of reading nonfiction as reading. But in fact it is, and it is extremely important."

Teachers and parents have said boys generally prefer stories with adventure, suspense and fantasy and tend toward reading nonfiction stories and non-narrative informational books, as well as magazines and newspapers.

Maybe it would be easier to say that everyone wants to read what interests them and quite properly rebels at being told what to read. (Maybe boys just rebel more conspicuously than girls.)

It's one thing for the biology teacher to insist that you read a biology book, but if teachers are just trying to get kids to read, why shouldn't they provide a broad selection and give kids a chance to discover what they find interesting? It looks as though the biggest problem is that teachers are pushing too much literary fiction on kids. English teachers tend to be people who enjoy that sort of thing, but most people don't read it on their own. Why should we have an appetite for stories? And why should our appetite for stories be about elegantly described characters and their relationships (as opposed to adventure and fantasy)?

I used to take my sons to the bookstore and let them find whatever they were interested in. We used to hang out at Borders nearly every day, and I usually ended up buying a book or two. What did they want? Humor, especially in comic form (like "Life in Hell"). Collections of amazing science facts and other things that did not have to be read in linear fashion. (This was a big favorite.) Books about movies and music and other subjects they were interested in.

The Post article links to this website aimed getting "guys" to read. Is this website designed for some sort of male hard-wired brain phenomenon? Because I found it unbelievably irritating! Somehow I suspect males will find it damned irritating too.

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