Sunday, May 29, 2005

Boy Stories

Didn't Harvard's Lawrence Summers get into some trouble over something similar to this? According to an in-depth piece by The Christian Science Monitor:

If you want to get boys to read, assign F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby." So say students at the all-boys Haverford School in suburban Philadelphia.

"Everybody loves 'The Great Gatsby,' " says Robert Peck, who since 1973 has taught English at the 1,000-student K-12 private school.

But the vast majority of assigned-reading novels are not such a slam-dunk with boy readers. Getting boys to read is an exercise that stumps many an educator.

Not only do boys consistently test lower than girls on reading, but they are well known to be reluctant readers. Some teachers suggest that the problem is only getting worse — that boys today have more distractions, particularly electronic ones — and are even less likely to come to class ready to get excited about a book.

But now more are suggesting that the problem may not lie entirely within the boys themselves. Some educators believe that the way schools teach reading tends to favor girls, both in terms of teaching style and reading materials chosen. It's a concern that has pushed teachers to work harder to both find materials that boys like to read, and to find more "boy-friendly" ways to present that material.

Girl readers are generally drawn to narratives that focus on relationships between people, while boys tend to prefer adventure, science fiction, war stories, history, and, of course, sports. Research also suggests that, given the choice, boys will often prefer non-fiction, magazines and newspapers, how-to reading, and biographies — reading material that some teachers say is not serious enough for class assignments.To jump-start boy readers he suggests nonfiction.

Boys may actually read more than people think they do, says Wadsworth — but it's not material assigned in school. For boys, he recommends topics like "baseball, butterflies, collecting stamps."

"Biographies of people whose lives would excite boys — adventures, anyone who's done something with a sense of challenge — would be a good start."

Just take a look at your local public school's basal reader or anthology. You'll see what they're talking about. Meanwhile, the seniors at the all-boys Haverford school have put together a list of recommended reading for the summer.

For reasons that must be obvious to anyone who has read the above, Tom Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons made their list.
Submissions for The Carnival of Education: Week 17, should be sent to owlshome [at] earthlink [dot] net no later then 10:00 PM (Pacific) Tuesday, May 31st, 2005. The Carnival should open here at The Wonks Wednesday morning.

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