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Reading — still a dirty word

First, the good news: Last weekend I was at an annual gathering of college friends, debating the future of education with one of the people who made the Kindle work. He’s looking for his next big project, so he was brainstorming either campaigning for a convention to rewrite the U.S. Constitution OR remaking the U.S. public education system. (He thinks BIG!) It was thrilling for me to talk about what works and what doesn’t and what can be done in this new century.

But I kept pinning the discussion to reality — the things I’ve learned from my 12 years of working with educators to make comix they can use in the classroom. And unfortunately, some of that reality kept hitting me between the eyes at my booksignings this summer. For way too many boys in my target audience, it is still a badge of honor to say:

“I don’t read.”

I mean it. These 8- to 12-year-old boys that I talk to don’t act sheepish about it. They say it matter-of-factly or even aggressively — “I don’t read!” They say it like they are proud of it. They say it like saying “I like to read” would get them kicked off the football team or laughed at as they chat with friends over the XBox.

The funny thing is that a lot of these boys DO read. They read magazines they like. They process plenty of text info on the games or websites they visit. They text with each other on phones. They even read history comix starring a blue crab. But they can’t ADMIT that they like to read. It’s a sobering thing for me to hear from them after all the focus put on boy reading in the past decade:

* All those celebrity reading posters in the library

* all the emphasis placed on literacy by the No Child Left Behind federal law

* all the cool NEW ways to read (such as the KINDLE!)

* the awesome Boys Read effort

* and all those thousands and thousands of Harry Potter books!!!!!

Maybe these preteen boys are pushing back against all these efforts — the more Mom or the Teacher pushes reading, the more the boys resist?? There’s a lot of reasons. There are a lot of distractions these days! We’ll end with good news. I continue to hear great things from parents and teachers about how much reluctant readers love my books once they read them, but I’ve taken to cautioning a buyer at the point of sale. Don’t force the books, I urge. Leave Chester Comix lying around the kitchen table or in the bathroom or stuck in the seat net of the minivan. Let the boys choose to read in a quiet moment when no one is looking.

Really. I don’t mind Chester being in the bathroom!!! 😉

This entry was posted on Sunday, September 11th, 2011 at 11:08 am and is filed under literacy. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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Chester crab comics