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Saturday, June 29, 2013

ALA 2013: Attracting Reluctant Male Readers

Winner of my favorite title of a program this year:  Attracting Reluctant Male Readers

Speaker: Barbara Binns
Speaker: James Klise

Report: As of the time of the program, there are no handouts online.  I have paper handouts however, so I will scan when I get back to work after the holiday (around July 8th), and I will add links to them on this post.

B.A. Binns is the first speaker.  She is a writer of books about real boys and blogs for YALSA Hub. [post speaker note: she was very engaging and interesting.]Reading is not normal.  We learn to walk without being taught to walk, but reading is simply not a survival factor.
  • Literacy is a 21st century survival skill though: read or not have a good life
  • Good news--when we learn how to read, it is effortless; bad news we have to be taught.
  • Good book is its own reward.  Epiphany of a novel we like gives us endorphins.
  • Reluctant readers need positive rewards (good books) to keep them going.
  • Do Guys Read? She asked teen boys.  Replies
    • I don't read
    • I read for school
    • I read comics
    • I read all the time, I guess other guys haven't found anything they like yet.
  • When you talk to former reluctant readers they can point to one book that turned them around to being a reader.  Many of them cite The Outsiders by Hinton as book that turned them around.
  • Guys are different.
    • It takes boys longer to develop communication skills, including literacy
    • by 16 it evens out
    • But if don't get them before that, may have lost them.
  • Reading for fun chart on screen.  Both genders are interested when young, but somewhere in that 6-8 years old range [when we start to learn to read on our own], boys begin to drop off at a greater rate.  By high school only 17% of boys are reading by their own free will 5 times a week.  Girls are at 31%.  Both low numbers, but boys even lower. The boys are getting less practice and fall further behind.  They then think, "reading is for girls" too.
  • What does being a reluctant reader feel like? She tried to learn French to read a thick novel that wasn't in English. Taught herself to read French with picture books and graphic novels.  She found she loved the graphic novels because she could get it.
  • If we provide a good book, appropriate to their skills, age level, and interests, we can convert then to readers.
  • Give books that attract; that show practical value. Nonfiction a big guy draw.  She will focus on fiction, but remember that.
  • Easier to get them young than win them back as they get older.
  • For novels boys  want fast moving action, frequent danger, high stakes, and straightforward, unfussy narratives.
  • Don't say "get lost in a book" to guys.  For guys we say, "find yourself in a book."
    • Characters that act "real" and can show them something about their own lives and issues
  • Stories of real boys growing into real men from her publisher All the Colors of Love Press.
  • Don't forget the fun factor. As long as the writing is good, and there is a good moral at its foundation, let them have fun. [Becky: like my son's love of the Dr. Proctor Fart Powder books by Jo Nesbo.]
  • Its a myth that guys won't read books about girls: Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass is a great example to show that they will.
  • Sometimes covers hurt the cause. Example is Take Me There.  It is a buddy book about boys on a road trip with the police after them and running from a gang whose leader they killed.  Going to talk to one kid's dad on death row.  The hero can't read.  Reluctant readers will love him. Terrible cover, but great book for boys.
  • Marketing for guys
    • If he says he doesn't read, find out why.
    • Find alpha male and get him to read
    • Some don't read because of fear and embarrassment.
    • Some have no time, or have trouble reading, or find other activities are more fun
    • We can find people a book to solve these problems. 
    • If we throw guys into the deep end before they are ready to swim, they will drown.
    • Man cave concept for your library.  A Guy friendly area.
    • Showcase a variety of titles that are attractive to guys. Display: Don't Get Mad, Get Even
    • She showed a non-dewey subject organized library [Arlington Heights].  Have an eating section.
    • Remember not all reading involves books.  Magazines for example.
  • She book talked a bunch of options.
  • Guys like Crime/Detective/Mystery: Example of a backlist title-- Acceleration by Graham McNamee
  • Science Fiction: Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi.  Multi-cultural and boys and girls characters; dystopian. A near future sf example, The Chaos by Rachel Ward.
  • Superheroes: Hero by Perry Moore.  I read this book here.
  • SF and Sports: The Rookie by Scott Sigler.  Football 700 years in the future.  First in a series. It is thick.  Suggest audio book.  Remember audio for guys too.
  • Realistic Sports: Leverage by Joshua Cohen. Being God by Binns herself. Pinned by Sharon Flake; girl protagonist but boys will like.
  • Humor/realistic: Lexapros and Cons by Aaron Karo
  • Short Stories are good because they can finish something and feel proud
  • Books in verse get to the point quickly. All the Broken Pieces by Ann Burg. Also Unlocked by Ryan Van Cleave.
  • Graphic Novels: War Brothers by Sharon McKay in novel and gn.
  • Never Fall Down, a fictionalized biography of a boy solider.
  • YALSA Quick Picks, "seeks books that teens age 12-18 will pick up on their own to read."
  • Encourage Guys to Write
    • stories
    • book reviews
    • not essays, just a few words about why they liked a book
  • Author visits are great to attract reluctant readers.
  • Role models: including librarians
James Klise: school librarian and YA author.
  • Everyday I work hard to contradict the thought that boys do not like to read.  He once heard a publisher at a writers conference say, "boys are not readers, so I am not interested in acquiring books for them." No wonder boys don't
  • He asked boys at his school what their favorite books were
    • there is a handout about the books these real high school books suggested. I will attach.
  • More than half of his regular patrons are boys.  Why do I have so many? Maybe because I am a boy. I talked to them about reading during freshman orientation.  I spend 50% of my budget on books for boys. These boys who I work with are not all the best readers or students.
  • I take it personally when people say boys don't read. I read all the time.
  • Becky: This speaker is the brother of the writer of another one of my son's favorite series. It is amazing how much I am thinking of my son (8 yrs old) during this presentation.  He is not a reluctant reader, but he is pickier than my daughter.  They are on the right track for sure.
  • When he went to the Peoria library he felt free.  He had 5 older sisters. He could pick any book he wanted.  And he could escape into a boy world with his books.
  • What do most boys think about reading.  To Be a Boy, To Be a Reader, great book to see archetypes of boy readers.  Also see Reading Don't Fix No Chevys.
  • He surveyed students about reading 170 boys, 30 girls.  Charter school in Chicago. Students are admitted randomly by a lottery, no testing.
    • 850 students
    • 55% biys
    • 76% get free or reduced lunch
    • Average ACT score is 20. Average kids.
    • Diverse population: shows that boys of color read
  • What books appeal to boys:
    • Besides genres we already talked about, they said they want books that "are related to me," "visual"
    • Some quote show that they want action, twists, realistic, broken character is trying to be better, people in struggles, books as escape to life we don't have
    • Like external conflict over angst
  • Don't like: historical stuff, emotions, romances, long and boring at the beginning, too much talking and very little conflict.
  • I prefer real over made up: 60% False, but 40% do prefer NF-- that's a big area, nf for pleasure
    • girls responded similarly. 66% to 34%
  • I prefer GNs over regular- pretty even split true and false.
    • But only 6% of girls said they preferred GN over regular.
  • It's helpful when a teacher/librarian recommends a book to me: 77% true, 23% fault Boys.  91% true and 9% false for Girls
  • Strategies:
    • Buy books for all of our patrons, not just some of them
    • Expose teens to all the options
      • displays and shelf talkers
      • book talks to school groups
      • featured titles on website
      • He went to the local Barnes and Nobel and most Teen displays were geared toward girls.  In libraries we have a chance to fill in the gap here and cater to boys.
    • We promote the idea that you can chose your own reading
      • They are starting a reading choice program at their school.  Read whatever you want is their strategy to get to the goal of raising their ACT scores. You pick your books, just read more of them and we will use your books that you want to read to make you better test takers and students. Many of his kids cannot read fast enough to do well on the tests because they do not read for fun enough.
    • His favorite strategy: You can win over reluctant readers by giving them a book to keep
  • High School Book Club; monthly for 10 years. It has a waiting list.  He thinks it works because the kids get to keep the books they read. He uses friends with publisher connection and grant programs.
  • Guys Read series and resources, but these are mostly for straight guys.  He reminded us that gay guys read too.  Lee Wind's site is a good choice [Becky: a personal fav].
  • A librarian from DC shared her experiences using audio books with boys.  She put out audio books for the to listen to while they played video games at the library. They read things that I never expected, like 10 year old boys who love Pippi Longstocking because she "gets me."  As James said, that's because she is trouble; boys love that.
Post Session Comments by Becky:
I really liked this presentation.  I will use much of what I learned here.  Hearing librarians and writers who have worked with boys for many years was helpful.  Again, as I mentioned during the above notes, I kept thinking of my boy reader, my son.  They articulated things I have noticed but only subconsciously. 

UPDATE: Jim shared his list with me via email.  Please find it attache below with his contact info.

James Klise Chicago, IL 

AFTER PERCY JACKSON: 10 Irresistible Novels for Teen Boys at My Library
Descriptors slightly modified from the copyright pages
The Compound – S.A. Bodeen
15‐year‐old Eli is locked inside a radiation‐proof compound built by his father to keep them safe following a nuclear attack. He begins to question his future, as well as his father's grip on sanity, as the family's situation steadily disintegrates over the course of six years.

Leverage – Joshua C. Cohen
Danny excels at gymnastics but is bullied, like the rest of the gymnasts, by members of the football team, until an emotionally and physically scarred new student joins the football team and forms an unlikely friendship with Danny.

The Morgue and Me – John C. Ford
18‐year‐old Christopher, who plans to be a spy, learns of a murder cover‐up through his summer job as a morgue assistant. He teams up with Tina, a gorgeous newspaper reporter, to investigate.

Fallen Angels – Walter Dean Myers
17‐year‐old Richie Perry, just out of his Harlem high school, enlists in the Army in the summer of 1967 and spends a devastating year on active duty in Vietnam.

Boy 21 – Matthew Quick
Finley, a quiet boy who is the only white player on his high school's varsity basketball team, lives in a dismal Pennsylvania town that is ruled by the Irish mob. When his coach asks him to mentor a troubled African American student who has transferred there from an elite private school in California, he finds that they have a lot in common in spite of their apparent differences.

Unwind – Neal Shusterman
Three teens embark upon a cross‐country journey in order to escape from a society that salvages body parts from children ages 13 to 18. Its sequel, UnWholly, is also fantastic.

Escape from Furnace: Lockdown (Book #1 in series) – Alexander Gordon Smith
When 14‐year‐old Alex is framed for murder, he becomes an inmate in the Furnace Penitentiary, where brutal inmates and sadistic guards reign, boys who disappear in the middle of the night sometimes return weirdly altered, and escape might just be possible.

Boot Camp – Todd Strasser
After ignoring several warnings to stop dating his teacher, Garrett is sent to Lake Harmony, a boot camp that uses unorthodox and brutal methods to train students to obey their parents

The Final Four ‐ Paul Volponi
Four players at the Final Four of the NCAA basketball tournament struggle with the pressures of tournament play and the expectations of society at large. (Volponi’s Rooftop is also v. popular.)

I am the Messenger – Markus Zusak
After capturing a bank robber, 19‐year‐old Ed Kennedy begins receiving mysterious messages that direct him to addresses where people need help, and so begins getting over a lifelong feeling of worthlessness.

Popular Nonfiction for Teen Boys at My Library

Descriptors slightly modified from the copyright pages

My Friend Dahmer – Derf Backderf (graphic novel)
In presenting memories of childhood classmate, Backderf creates a surprisingly sympathetic
portrait of a disturbed young man struggling against the morbid urges emanating from the
deep recesses of his psyche.
Into the Wild – John Krakauer
Tells the story of Chris McCandless, a 24‐year‐old who walked into the Alaskan wilderness on an idealistic journey and was found dead of starvation nearly four months later.
American Shaolin : flying kicks, Buddhist monks, and the legend of iron crotch : an odyssey
in the new China
– Matthew Polly
Matthew Polly recounts the experiences he had during the two years he spent living and studying in China, performing with the Shaolin monks, who taught Matthew important lessons about life and his place in the universe.

The Burn Journals – Brent Runyon
At 14, Brent Runyon set himself on fire and sustained burns over 80 percent of his body. This account describes the months of physical and mental rehabilitation that followed as he attempted to pull his life together.

True Notebooks – Mark Salzman
Salzman chronicles his first years teaching at Central Juvenile Hall, a lockup for Los Angeles's most violent teenage offenders, discussing what his students taught him about life.

My Bloody Life – Reymundo Sanchez
The author tells about his early life in Puerto Rico, shares the story of how he became involved with the Latin Kings in Chicago, and discusses how the gang changed over the years from heroes representing the struggle for Latino equality to cold‐blooded murderers. (Sequel: Once a King, Always a King)

Guys Write for GUYS READ – Jon Scieszka, editor
Contains a collection of 80+ short stories, drawings, poems, and memoirs from well‐known writers of "guy" fiction, written by boys, for boys. Includes pieces by Daniel Pinkwater, Neil Gaiman, Will Hobbs, Stephen King, Gary Paulsen, among others. (This book is perfect for classes writing personal narratives.)

Monster: The Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member – Kody Scott
L.A. Crip gang member Kody Scott recounts his life from the time he joined at 11 years old to being in solitary confinement at San Quentin.

Ghosts of War – Ryan Smithson
Ryan Smithson recounts the experiences he had serving his first tour of duty as an Army engineer in Iraq when he was only nineteen.
Plus, about 100 books about SPORTS: sports history, popular players, practical advice, etc.... 

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