Posts Tagged ‘reluctant readers’

Three Cheers for Rick Riordan and The Lightning Thief

Posted on October 22nd, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

A while back, I had the pleasure of speaking to a group of about 60 enthusiastic parents. Their children attend North Delta Parent Participation Preschool and I talked to them about ways to promote phonemic awareness, alphabet recognition and reading in general. One of the things I said was that even when we do everything “right” and lay a solid foundation for reading success, sometimes children just aren’t keen to read. Some children are much more enthusiastic about “doing.” As I said those words, I thought about my ten year old. He loves good books, is a good reader and has heard many fine books but we almost never catch him reading. He prefers non fiction to fiction and has a shelf full of books about animals.


When I arrived home last night, the house was awfully quiet. My husband was sitting at the computer and I had to ask him where the boys were. I was stunned to discover that they were both on top of their beds engrossed in chapter books. For my eldest, this is not at all unusual but for my ten year old it was momentous. Truly, I can’t recall it ever happening before.

My eldest son is rereading the Harry Potter series and enjoying every minute. He is fascinated by the small, seemingly insignificant details that are mentioned in one book, “forgotten” for awhile and then resurface two books later. I laughed when a casual acquaintance remarked on the fact that he was only reading the fifth book because I know he has devoured alll the books at least once and most of them two or three times.

But, back to the shocking events of last night. It just goes to show the importance of finding the “right” book. Our house is jammed with books but not one of them has captivated my ten year old like The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. It is the first book in a series about Percy Jackson & The Olympians My son started reading it at school, used holiday money to buy Book One and Book Two and now can’t put it down. He tells me I will have to wait until he finishes before I can read The Lightning Thief. Trust me, I can’t wait to discover the magic.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians Paperback Boxed Set (Books 1-3) at Amazon.com

The Percy Jackson and the Olympians Boxed Set at Amazon.ca



Journey of a reluctant reader…Two weeks, three books, one closet reader

Posted on October 21st, 2011 by Jody

If you ask Johnny if he likes to read, he’ll say no. He’s been honest from the start; reading is not his favored choice of activity. I too have been honest with the class; they know that my goal is for Johnny to love books. Of course, all of my energy is not focussed just on him. In fact, being in the Library with my students is one of my favourite weekly activities. I pour through the shelves with them, asking them about their choices, finding books from my childhood, and reading the summaries of new books that my students might enjoy. The students know that reading is more than just an important skill for me to teach them. I think they really get the idea that, to me, reading is the portal to so many other great things~characters, places, struggles, triumphs, memories, and lessons. They also know that I am just persistant enough to keep harping at them about how powerful books can be in their lives.

So what I’m saying is: they humor me. They let me show them all the books I think they’d like; they even say they’ll try them and return them quietly on their book exchange day. And I adore students for their willingness to please their teacher by trying something new. However, I’m feeing quite triumphant this week because not only has Johnny chosen three novels in the last couple of weeks, but the other students have joined my quest to hook him on books!

Walking by Johnny’s desk today, I noticed a Warriors book, a favourite among many of the students I have taught over the past few years. I tried to hide my excitement as I asked “What is THIS?”. He laughed and shook his head and said “I’m just trying it”. His friend, who also took out this book responded, “Ya, we’re reading the kitty books together”. Yet another friend said, “That’s because of me! I told them to read those books so they are. We told them how good they are”. So I realized that two hugely exciting things are happening and I’m not sure which one is better. Johnny is choosing to read, without any prompting on my part and secondly, our sense of community is coming together so well, that they are pushing each other for better things. It’s not just that they’re recommending literature or following through with a peer’s book recommendation. It’s the fact that they care about each other enough to share their interests, to listen to each other, to take advice from one another, and to push each other forward in a positive way.

Today is one of those days where I am so grateful to be a teacher. Some days I get caught up in all of the sadness that exists around us and days like today remind me of all the goodness that is right in front of us. Kids are amazing.


Journey of a Reader…Bits of resistance

Posted on October 4th, 2011 by Jody

I knew it wouldn’t all be smooth sailing turning Johnny into someone who enjoys reading. Two things are on my side at the moment, however; he’s willing to try and he’s already had one good read that he enjoyed this school year. I will continue to build on these two positives, but he’s made it clear, in actions and words, that he’s in charge of the journey. I think that’s important for us to remember: we can teach them, we can model, we can preach, and we can show them the way, but in the end, the choice is theirs. If they truly don’t want to be readers, do we have the power to change that? At this point, I’m still optimistically going to say YES.

In his school wide write this week, Johnny wrote about setting goals and learning new things. Providing further proof that he is not avoiding reading due to difficulty decoding or comprehending, Johnny’s school wide write was well written, grammatically correct, and properly organized.  When he wrote about some of the things he was willing to try this year, he mentioned that he was “even going to try to like reading”. At this point, I smiled, thinking, “He really does want to try”. Then I read the next sentence, neatly put in brackets: “(like that’s going to happen)”.

So far we know these facts:

  • He can read above grade level
  • His written output is strong
  • He’s got a good sense of humor and a willingness to try
  • He’s not going to say he loves reading just to please his teacher

This last fact I know for sure because now that he has finished The Lemonade War (and I was unable to find The Lemonade Crime this weekend) he was reluctant to try something new. He is definitely a student that wants to be sure the read is going to be worth the effort. He told me today that he needed something to read. We took a look at This Can’t be happening at Macdonald Hall by Gordon Korman. I felt confident saying that he would know whether or not he liked it within the first few pages. A few pages later, he gave the book back.I offered him Sideways Stories of Wayside School, by Louis Sachar. This book is below his reading level, but sometimes, we just want to keep the kids reading. Better that he read something entertaining while I find him a more suitable book than to have him not read at all. While we were talking about Louis Sachar, he mentioned that he LOVED the book Holes. A previous teacher had read it to him.  I don’t have a copy in my class but said I would get him one by tomorrow. (I didn’t mention that people who love reading often find enjoyment in re-reading an old favorite.) Though not entirely engaged, he was content to read about the kids at Wayside (an extremely funny book if you’ve never read it) for today.

So the journey continues. Even though I haven’t succeeded in making him LOVE reading yet, I think the fact that there are books he does LOVE, is going to make this easier. Often, not being able to find the right style of book can be very discouraging. I’ll take it as a good sign that I know of a few authors already who have peaked his interest.

Journey of a Reader…Lemonade War

Posted on September 30th, 2011 by Jody

Last time, I introduced you to Johnny, my “I’d-rather-do-anything-other-than-read-even-though-I’m-totally-capable” student. He mentioned that he’s not opposed to reading, he just doesn’t care much for it and certainly doesn’t see it as a passtime or escape. Once I found out he was really enjoying have me read Fudge-a-Mania to the class, I knew I had a book for him. The Lemonade War is a book I read with my daughters over the summer. It’s a great read and actually, my very first post for Carolyn’s site was a review of this book. It definitely has humor and it has a great sibling rivalry that leaves you torn between which character to root for in the end.

Johnny knows all about my plans to make him like reading and he’s very receptive. I gave him a short summary and he said he’d try the book. I have to admit, I thought he was just messing with me when he said he’d read several chapters later that day. He was picking up the book when he had time and before I knew it, he told me he was finished. He loved it! He said it was funny and great and part way through he said he couldn’t wait to see what happened. So~success right? That day, when I signed his planner, I said I was so happy he liked it so much and wasn’t reading great? Sadly, he said, “It was a really good book. But I still don’t like reading”. While I did not achieve a quick victory, I do have every reason to be hopeful. My “chosen” student for this year is an above average reader with a very open mind and a good sense of humor. He won’t simply tell me he now loves reading so I’ll leave him. I think he might want to know if I can change his mind. For now though, I’ll take the small victories. He really, really liked the book. He was excited to have finished it and his Accelerated Reading test confirmed that he also understood it. It’s still early days yet, but at least we started the year off with him enjoying a book. I want more though. I want him to love a book so much he can’t put it down. I want him to read before bed by choice or take a good book on a long car ride. I want him to see what worlds he can open up by finding new authors. However, for now, I’ll accept this small gain. Coincidently, the first book I get him to enjoy? It’s sequel just came out last month! Guess I’ll be purchasing The Lemonade Crime this weekend.

Journey of a Relutant Reader…The Chosen One

Posted on September 30th, 2011 by Jody

Journey of a Reluctant Reader - a series of posts by Storytime Standouts' Guest ContributorIn one of my summer posts, I talked about how I love the challenge of finding that “one” student who is NOT a reader. The student that can read, but would rather not; the one that doesn’t make an effort to engage with the text; the one that feels there are far better ways to spend time than reading. In the second week of September, I found my student. He laughed at the shock on my face when he muttered the words “I don’t like reading”. I decided to tell him that he was my new project and explained to him how I’d like to change his mind. His response? “Good luck” he said. I have plans and ideas, and surprisingly, I’ve already made some head way. So these posts will be a little different; these will be about his journey, and mine, as I try to change his mind about the world of reading. Some of my ideas might work and others might not. I’ll happily take suggestions if you think of something that might further engage him. I thought it would be very informative to track his progress and attitude throughout the year. Obviously, my hope is that his journey will lead him to finding the joy in reading. These posts will be slightly shorter, as I will basically “journal” about my efforts and his responses. When he told me he didn’t like to read, I thought it might be informative, if not entertaining, to see where his journey takes us.





So, the Chosen One? We’ll call him Johnny because obviously I can’t use his real name and Johnny seems to be the go-to name in nursery rhymes, references to school, and in basal readers. To give you a little bit of background, “Johnny” was tested yesterday and is currently reading at a grade level of 7.7 in grade 5. There is nothing, academically, stopping him from reading. Before I had him take the reading test on the computer, I had done my own reading assessment and knew he was at the higher end of the spectrum. He’s a good kid. He can be chatty, but since my last post was on the benefits of oral language, I can’t really complain too much there. What I really like about Johnny is that he knows I’m going to try to change his mind about reading. He won’t try to stop me, but he’ll be honest about how he feels too. He’s got a good sense of humor. When he told me he had started a Christmas List already, I asked if he had books on it. He replied in a deadpan voice, “Yes. That’s my whole list. Just a bunch of books”. Back in week two of school, when I had thought about this project, I had Johnny humor me and I interviewed him.

Me: Why don’t you like to read?

J: It’s boring

Me: But what if the book is really good? Then it’s not boring.

J: Well, then I can read it.

Me: You laugh when I’m reading. Do you like our read aloud book? (We are doing Fudge-a-mania by Judy Blume)

J: Ya. It’s funny.

Me: Do you like funny books? You like humor?

J: Funny books are good. I like that one.

Me: What else do you like to do?

J: Anything

Me: Except read?

J: (laughing- I suspect AT me) Ya.

Me: What if mom said, go to your room and stay there for a while? What would you do to pass time?

J: Go to sleep.

Me: Will you let me try to change your mind about reading?

J: Okay

Me: You know I’ll change your mind right?

J: Okay. Good luck with that.

Hopefully you’ll join me and Johnny as I try to reach my goal.

Read the entire series by Jody

Barnstormers’ Baseball, Will this Author Hit a Home Run Yet?

Posted on September 12th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Game 1 Barnstormers written by Phil Bildner and illustrated by Loren Long

A while back, I had an opportunity to read and listen to the first book in a new historical fiction series for 7 -10 year olds. Game 1 (Barnstormers) introduces three siblings who travel with a barnstorming baseball team, The Travelin’ Nine.

Set in 1899, the first book in the series leaves us with more questions than answers: we know the children’s father died in the war and that he possessed a mysterious baseball but it unclear why the ball is significant. We also hear their uncle’s warning that great danger lies ahead but so far have only encountered mysterious visions and sounds.

For children who are fascinated with baseball and how it was played 100+ years ago,this series may yet prove very appealing. Personally, I was frustrated that the author left me stranded on second base – with many, many unanswered questions.

Game 1 (Barnstormers) at Amazon.com

Game 1: #1 in The Barnstormers: Tales of the Travelin’ Nine Series at Amazon.ca


Start a Kids’ Book Club – Why Not?

Posted on September 11th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Start a Book Club - Why Not? Storytime Standouts Recommends The Kids' Book ClubFor all families, schools and libraries, finding ways to create a literacy-friendly environment should be a top priority. I feel fortunate that my boys have been surrounded by books since infancy and they both read enthusiastically and without difficulty today.

The Kids’ Book Club Book: Reading Ideas, Recipes, Activities, and Smart Tips for Organizing Terrific Kids’ Book Clubs written by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp
Parenting and Professional Resource for Teachers and Librarians published by Penguin Group USA





When The Kids’ Book Club Book: Reading Ideas, Recipes, Activities, and Smart Tips for Organizing Terrific Kids’ Book Clubs arrived on my doorstep, I was at once curious about the contents and the authors’ approach. For so many young people, a kids’ book club could be a fantastic way to boost enthusiasm for reading and books.

After suggesting ways to organize a group and choose books, the authors focus on fifty titles. They recommend books for grades 1-5, 4-7, 6-8 and 9+ . For each book they provide a summary, information about the author, recipes for treats that tie-in with the selection and more. Engaging headings like “Make It!” “Try It!” and “Ask It!” lead to enjoyable ways to make reading and discussing the books meaningful and fun.

Selections for younger children include The Boxcar Children; Sarah, Plain and Tall and Because of Winn-Dixie .

For middle grade readers they look at Holes, The Breadwinner, Harry Potter, Eragon and more.

For young teen readers, one of the suggested books is The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Suggested topics for discussion (paraphrased here) include how the four girls deal with their problems, what each girl learns, which character you most identify with and why the girls’ bonds are so strong.

Authors’ Website

The Kids’ Book Club Book: Reading Ideas, Recipes, Activities, and Smart Tips for Organizing Terrific Kids’ Book Clubs is a user friendly, upbeat and comprehensive resource for any parent, teacher or librarian looking for ways to establish and nuture a young readers’ book club

The Kids’ Book Club Book at Amazon.com

Kids Book Club Book at Amazon.ca


Grade Three Reading – What if You’ve Made it to Grade 3 and Can’t Read?

Posted on September 10th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Whether your child struggles with grade three reading or not, this is an enjoyable, generously illustrated chapter book

I Hate Books a great chapter book for grade threeI Hate Books! written by Kate Walker
Generously illustrated chapter book published by Cricket Books





Hamish is blessed with a Grandpa who reads aloud “with lots of expression”. When Hamish was little, he loved books but the love affair ends when he begins grade three reading and his teacher asks him to read aloud. Before long, Hamish is referred to a reading specialist and it is confirmed that he has been making up stories rather than reading the words on the page.

After struggling with flash cards and remedial reading, Hamish decides that life will be fine – whether he learns to read or not. It takes a disastrous family road trip, an embarrassing birthday party and a persuasive older brother to change Hamish’s mind.

Happily, Hamish overcomes his struggles and eventially earns a prize for “most improved reader.”

Shortlisted for the Australian Children’s Book of the Year and the Young Australian’s Best Book Awards, I Hate Books! features relatively short chapters and very appealing illustrations. At about a grade three reading level, it is recommended for children aged seven to nine.

I Hate Books! at Amazon.com

I Hate Books! at Amazon.ca

Terrific Series For Middle Grade Readers – Chronicles of Ancient Darkness

Posted on September 9th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Need to find a new series for middle grade readers?

Storytime Standouts looks at a Terrific Series For Middle Grade Readers - Chronicles of Ancient Darkness







Michelle Paver’s books: Wolf Brother, Spirit Walker and Soul Eater sat unread on my bookshelf for far too long. These days, they are rarely in my office. These are the first three titles in a terrific series for middle grade readers. I have loaned each of them to many, many kids and, without exception, the books are devoured and the series is completed.

Wolf Brother is captivating, it has the perfect combination of tension and excitement. Set in primitive times, Wolf Brother begins when young Torak’s father is killed by a terrible demon – a huge bear that has been possessed by a creature from the Other World. Now, orphaned, Torak adopts a wolf cub and discovers he can communicate with this new ally. Together, they begin a seemingly impossible quest; to reach the Mountain of the World Spirit.

The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness is a terrific series for middle grade readers. I strongly recommend it – especially for boys. Relatively short chapters, a fascinating setting and terrific tension make for a series that appeals to many reluctant readers.

Web Resource: The Clan

Wolf Brother at Amazon.com

Wolf Brother at Amazon.ca



The Grade Four Reading Slump – Steps to Avoid It

Posted on September 8th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Avoiding the Grade 4 Reading Slump Advice from StorytimeStandouts.com

The Grade Four Reading Slump – parental awareness and action can have a huge impact

Children, when they reach about grade four, are vulnerable when it comes to reading. Typically, the books grade four children want to read are longer, the print may be smaller, there are fewer illustrations and readers may encounter tougher and/or altogether unfamiliar words.Amulet is a graphic novel that may appeal to otherwise reluctant readersAll of these factors may deter these children from wanting to read.

To avoid having middle grade children stop reading (or choose to read books that are meant for younger children), remember that it is best for you to continue reading books aloud even when your child is eight, nine or ten years old. Find an exciting children’s novel to share with your child and either alternate reading with your child or let your child sit back, listen, relax and savor the story. Drawn in by a great book and your enthusiasm for it, your child will be motivated to read increasingly challenging books. Series are especially great choices because children will often decide to read subsequent books independently. To a parent, the choice for a child to pick up book 2, 3 and 4 of a series signals, “Mission Accomplished.”Wolf Brother is the first book in the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series. It has short, exciting chapters and strong appeal for reluctant readers

I once shocked a group of parents when I said that if I had a choice of reading to my child or listening to my child read, I would choose reading aloud to him (fortunately, the choice should never be necessary). The fact is, if we read aloud to our children, we will foster an appetite for great books and we will introduce fascinating characters, unusual settings, little-known historical and/or scientific facts and spectacular new vocabulary that will serve our children well. Also remember, the more your children observe you reading, the greater the likelihood that your child will reach for a book when he has an opportunity, successfully avoiding the dreaded Grade Four Reading Slump.

Inkheart is a very popular series for middle grade readersFor further information on reluctant readers and the grade four reading slump, check out our page about reluctant readers .

Super Series Books for Grade Four Boys

Posted on September 6th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Super Series Books for Grade 4 Boys




ABC Canada Literacy Foundation has identified ‘three potential reading slump times that can hinder a child’s reading development. ‘ Grade four is one of those times. Grade four is just about the time that readers encounter longer chapters, smaller print and more complex vocabulary.

We lose some readers in the transition. My two boys are nine and twelve – one loves to read and one loves to “do” so I know that finding engaging books is critical for this age group. As well, I probably read more kids’ books than most moms so I’m often asked for book recommendations for grade four boys. Many of the best series for this age group are funny (occasionally rude), action-packed, irreverent and very generously illustrated. The books often feature boys who find themselves in trouble – at school, at home, sometimes even in the library.

With nine, ten and eleven year old reluctant readers, we need to keep our goal in mind: get books (almost any books!) into their hands and encourage them to read.

Concurrently, in an ideal world, parents will continue to read aloud more challenging and diverse books – but that is for another day.

Sideways Stories from Wayside School is an excellent series for grade four boys
Sideways Stories from Wayside School – Written by Louis Sachar (author of Holes)
I have had great success with this book. The wacky humor and very short chapters are very appealing to boys. Each chapter tells about one student at Wayside School – you don’t have to read them in order so kids can jump around the book if they wish.

Sideways Stories from Wayside School at Amazon.com

Sideways Stories From Wayside School at Amazon.ca

Books in the Wayside School Series
Sideways Stories From Wayside School
Wayside School is Falling Down
Wayside School Gets A Little Stranger

The Adventures of Captain Underpants an excellent series for grade four boys

The Adventures of Captain Underpants– written by Dav Pilkey
Have you ever met a boy who didn’t enjoy the ‘Action, Thrills, and Laffs of a Captain Underpants book? With rude humor and tons of illustrations, this series is great for even the most reluctant reader. Just don’t tell your boys that the series is mom approved – that would spoil the fun!

The Adventures Of Captain Underpants Collectors’ Edition at Amazon.com

Captain Underpants Boxed Set: Books 1-4 at Amazon.ca

Books in the Captain Underpants Series silliness and rudeness are perfect for grade four boys
The Adventures of Captain Underpants
Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilets
Captain Underpants and the Invasion of the Incredibly Naughty Cafeteria Ladies from Outer Space (and the Subsequent Assault of the Equally Evil Lunchroom Zombie Nerds)
Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants
Captain Underpants and the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman
Captain Underpants and the Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy, Part 1: The Night of the Nasty Nostril Nuggets
Captain Underpants and the Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy, Part 2: The Revenge of the Ridiculous Robo-Boogers
Captain Underpants and the Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People
Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Re-Turn of Tippy Tinkletrousers
Captain Underpants and the Revolting Revenge of the Radioactive Robo-Boxers
Captain Underpants and the Tyrannical Retaliation of the Turbo Toilet 2000


Legend of Spud Murphy an excellent series for grade four boys

The Legend of Spud Murphy – written by Eoin Colfer (author of the Artemis Fowl series)
When Will and Marty Woodman are told they must spend the summer in Spud Murphy’s Library, they know it will be a dangerous assignment. They’ve heard about the ‘gas-powered spud gun she keeps under her desk.’ Really good fun and a positive message about books and reading!

Eoin Colfer’s The Legend of Spud Murphy at Amazon.com

Eoin Colfer’s The Legend of Spud Murphy at Amazon.ca

Books in the Legends of Series – popular with grade four boys
Eoin Colfer’s Legend of Spud Murphy
Eoin Colfer’s Legend of Captain Crow’s Teeth
Eoin Colfer’s Legend of the Worst Boy in the World

Horrid Henry is an excellent series for grade four boys
Horrid Henry’s Wicked Ways – written by Francesca Simon
One of my nine year old’s favorites, Horrid Henry really is ‘awesomely wicked.’ It is the perfect antidote when you’ve had a rough day and you long to hear about someone who can relate to your troubles.

Horrid Henry at Amazon.com

Horrid Henry at Amazon.ca

Books in the Horrid Henry Series – great fun for grade four boys
Horrid Henry
Horrid Henry and the Secret Club
Horrid Henry Tricks the Tooth Fairy
Horrid Henry’s Nits
Horrid Henry Gets Rich Quick
Horrid Henry’s Haunted House
Horrid Henry and the Mummy’s Curse
Horrid Henry’s Revenge
Horrid Henry and the Bogey Babysitter
Horrid Henry’s Stinkbomb
Horrid Henry’s Underpants
Horrid Henry Meets the Queen
Horrid Henry and the Mega-Mean Time Machine
Horrid Henry and the Football Fiend
Horrid Henry’s Christmas Cracker
Horrid Henry and the Abominable Snowman
Horrid Henry Robs the Bank
Horrid Henry Wakes the Dead
Horrid Henry Rocks
Horrid Henry and the Zombie Vampire
Horrid Henry’s Monster Movie
Horrid Henry’s Nighmare
Horrid Henry Krazy Ketchup


Time Warp Trio is an excellent series for grade four boys
The Time Warp Trio by Jon Scieszka
Featuring time travel, adventure, humor and a touch of fantasy, The Time Warp Trio is a great pick for grade four boys. Sam, Fred and Joe use The Book to travel through time from one exciting adventure to another. I’ve had very good success drawing boys into this series. There is something for everyone: pirates, knights, neanderthals and Egyptians.

Time Warp Trio #1 The Knights of the Kitchen Table at Amazon.com

Time Warp Trio #1 Knights Of The The Kitchen Table at Amazon.ca

Books in the Time Warp Trio Series – excellent for grade four boys
Knights of the Kitchen Table
The Not-So-Jolly Roger
The Good, the Bad, and the Goofy
Your Mother Was a Neanderthal
2095
Tut Tut
Summer Reading Is Killing Me
It’s All Greek to Me
See You Later Gladiator
Sam Samurai
Hey Kid, Want to Buy a Bridge?
Viking It and Liking It
Me Oh Maya
Da Wild, Da Crazy, Da Vinci
Oh Say, I Can’t See
Marco? Polo!

Be sure to check out…

35 Ways to Engage Reluctant Readers from Storytime Standouts

Encouraging Boys to Read – The Male Perspective

Posted on August 31st, 2011 by E.R. Yatscoff

Encouraging Boys to Read - The Male Perspective A Guest Post on StorytimeStandouts.com





Back when I was a firefighter, the chief discovered I was a writer with a short story published.  He volunteered me for a children’s reading week at a district school.  I walked in the school gym and mingled with several other neighborhood people who had volunteered.  Since I was in full dress uniform I got all the attention from the elementary students.  What surprised me were the comments of the children regarding firefighters: “Firemen can read?”  “Is that really your name in that book?”  Apparently firefighters were illiterate sorts, Neanderthals, who couldn’t read or write.  Most of the children told me their fathers didn’t read books; “only the paper.”  Many of my male friends and ex-colleagues have rarely cracked a book.  Could it be they never found anything interesting to read while growing up?

Few firefighters write books.  There’s plenty of non-fiction in Canada written by them but no fiction.  I’m the only one in Canada writing eBook mysteries featuring a firefighter.  Unfortunately it’s an adult book.

Whenever school and children’s groups toured my fire station there was always a definite level of excitement.  The older the group, such as Boy Scouts, the higher the interest.  To keep this interest going, with regards to books, there was little around, save for picture books.  A chapter book/juvenile novel with firefighters and fire trucks could continue to build on the excitement.  Literary books are a tough sell for boys.  In my situation, I’ve written several juvenile/middle grade novels yet it’s never occurred to me to write one about firefighters.  The high interest angle is essential to attract children, especially boys, to books.  Perhaps a few firefighter novels in the genre would turn on more boy readers and therefore more men readers.

I was at a provincial park in Saskatchewan several years ago and watched a mixed group of tweens goofing around near the beach on a hot day.  One boy sat on the grass reading.  What kind of book could keep a boy away out of the sun and water?  I walked over to him and saw it was a Harry Potter novel.  That’s when I realized the power of attraction in those books.  Thank you J.K. Rowling.

The Male Perspective – Encouraging Boys to Read was written by Edward Yatscoff.
Archie's Gold by E. R. YatscoffHe describes himself as follows…
Retired fire captain with Edmonton Fire Rescue. Widely traveled. Have won several writing competitions and awards for short stories. My writing credits include travel articles, short stories, non-fiction, and mystery novels ranging from juvenile/middle grade to adult. I’ve written the very first firefighter mystery in Canada in an eBook. For this momentous achievement I can hear one hand clapping. I manage a writers group in Beaumont, AB. Hobbies include fishing and camping, boating, home renos, and writing.

Archie’s Gold at Amazon.com

Archie’s Gold at Amazon.ca

Visit Ed’s website

You may be interested in our page about reluctant readers.

Middle Grade Reader Transformed: Discovering a Love of Reading

Posted on August 24th, 2011 by Jody

Though children have to read, they don’t have to love reading. In fact, I have at least one student every year that insists they do not love it. Some even tell me they hate it. This is my favourite challenge of the school year. Watching a middle grade reader make the transition from reading for necessity to reading for pleasure is, quite simply, awesome.

Middle Grade Reader Transformed:  Discovering a Love of Reading, a guest post by @1prncs #middlegrades #reading #reluctantreadersWith the school year fast approaching, I’m wondering who that student will be this year? Which books will hook him/her? What made him/her dislike reading? How difficult will it be to change his/her mind?





Maybe it’s my own love of reading, of character rich stories, that makes me need to see this transition take place. I want all of my students to enjoy books, to learn from them, and to feel connected with them. But it’s those kids that think they can’t find enjoyment in a book, that see reading as a chore, that intrigue me.

I am very fortunate that my own daughters have inherited a love of literature. We foster that love by having books everywhere in our house, reading on our own and with them, and taking them to the library and book stores simply to browse. It must be something more than this, however, that hooks children on reading because I have many friends and colleagues that do the same with their children, yet reading is not their child’s first choice of activity.

For me, books are about the characters and their journey. If I don’t connect to the characters, I’m likely to give up on the book. Children are no different; if we cannot find something that captures their attention, almost immediately, they are likely to give up. If we want to engage children in reading for pleasure, we have to know them well enough to push them in the right direction. To me, this means two things: finding books that interest our children and finding books that are at the correct reading level.

Finding interests is fairly simple because you can talk to kids and easily get a sense of what excites them. Our school librarian is fantastic for helping me find certain “types” of books that I know will appeal to different kids. What I find can be the most challenging, is getting books that interest kids, are at the appropriate level, and look like a book a grade five student should be reading. This is the age where what friends think really matters. My students don’t want to be reading some ‘babyish’ book while their friends are pulling out The Lord of the Rings
and Harry Potter . So to this end, I am eternally grateful for the graphic novel.

Vivid, bright pictures appeal to most people. Graphic novels remind me of great advertisements; they are designed to draw you in and make you feel like you need to know more. They capture the reader’s attention quickly, move at a fast pace, and yet they still retain the story elements that are part of regular novels.

I am amazed by the amount of graphic novels available in a variety of age ranges. There are so many great series, such as Nancy Drew, Bone , Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and Amulet. You can find graphic novels that teach history and science or tell tales of favorite super-heroes. This is a huge market and it gets bigger every day. Kids are drawn to the way stories are told in speech bubbles and brief text boxes. For the reluctant reader, this genre can make reading at a lower level more appealing and less intimidating, while still managing to fit within socially acceptable appearances. That is not to say this is the best or the only form of getting kids on board with reading. In fact, it’s important to remember that getting a kid to love reading is going to depend entirely on the child in question. If the interest starts with reading the subtitles in non-fiction while looking at pictures or flipping through Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, so be it. Once they begin gravitating toward reading and changing their feelings toward the activity, making further inroads becomes easier.Engaging Middle Grade Readers Means Matching Interests and Reading Level - A guest post by @1prncs

It’s not always the case that students that don’t like to read are ‘low’ in this area. They may read quite well at grade level or above and simply not enjoy the task. Regardless of the ability or background reasons, I still feel compelled to at least try to change their minds.

I guess it’s natural that when we really love or enjoy something, we want to share it with others. Equally natural, is the desire to become involved in activities that excite others. The students can’t help but sense my enthusiasm for reading and perhaps, that in itself, is the hook.

I hope I haven’t generalized too much or made it sound easy to engage students in areas they’d rather avoid. It’s not easy. But if it works, if you can really hook them you get to be a part of a wonderful transition that can, quite literally, change lives.

For more information, visit our page about reluctant readers.

This year we won’t sign up for the Summer Reading Club – but I still want the boys to read

Posted on June 26th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

image of cover art for Pirateology

When the boys were younger, we always joined out local library’s Summer Reading Club. Each evening we recorded the books we’d read that day and once a week we stopped by the library. In addition to enjoying some great books, the boys were rewarded with stickers, praise and medals.

We all agreed that this year we won’t sign up for the library’s Summer Reading Club but nonetheless I intend to take them to the library once a week during July and August. Friday, the first day of our summer holiday, we ventured into the main branch and the vast children’s section of our local library. My eldest boy was soon engrossed in a book about World War II. My youngest boy was equally engrossed – he was watching other kids play computer games online.

With both kids occupied, I scooped up an armload of books – I was determined to find some for my nine year old even if he didn’t want to look. I picked up a little of this and a little of that – some short mytery stories for him to solve (these can be great for reading comprehension because usually kids have to be read very carefully if they hope to pick up on the critical clues), some ‘how to’ books (do I really want to build electrical circuits and make stuff from paper mache this summer?), Nick magazine and Pirateology.

We returned home – my eldest son with two books, my youngest with no books and me with twenty-five! My youngest son flipped through my pile of books. He declared all but two books ‘interesting.‘ (YAY)

Friday night we had a look at Pirateology and yesterday the two boys read each other mysteries and tried to figure out who did it.

Some children can easily deal with the library environment. They know what they want and how to find it. For some children, there are too many distractions and too many books. As well, we often focus on chapter books and ignore information books. Don’t give up on getting kids to read – stay involved and make suggestions. I’m learning that I will need to cast a wide net if I want to keep both of my kids reading this summer.

Pirateology: The Pirate Hunter’s Companion at Amazon.com

Pirateology: The Pirate Hunter’s Companion at Amazon.ca

Encouraging Us to Rethink Boys and Reading: Pam Allyn’s Best Books for Boys

Posted on June 10th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Dialogue is key... Storytime Standouts recommends Pam Allyn's Best Books for Boys My thirteen year old son knows exactly how to extend his bedtime. It involves picking up a book, turning on his bedside lamp and gazing at us with puppy dog eyes. “Please let me finish this chapter. I know you want me to read.” He’s right. Reading has always been a priority in our household and enjoying a chapter or two at bedtime is pretty tough to argue with. Tomorrow, we are off to pick up Rick Riordan’s latest because, due to my error it is not yet in the house. I’m not complaining, I know that raising boys who love to read can be a challenge. We’ve had our moments but, thanks to Rick Riordan, Michelle Paver, Kenneth Oppel, J.K. Rowling and others, we are fortunate that both our sons love to read (especially at bedtime).

Storytime Standouts looks at Pam Allyn's Best Books for Boys This afternoon, before the boys arrived home from school, I had a chance to check out Pam Allyn’s Best Books for Boys – How to engage Boys in Reading in Ways that Will Change Their Lives

Pam Allyn is the Executive Director of LitWorld and the author of a number of books including What to Read When. These are both books that should be on every teachers’ bookshelf and tucked into every parent’s bag of tricks. In Best Book for Boys, Allyn answers frequently asked questions about boys and reading, she also describes the keys to raising children who love reading; ritual, environment, access and dialogue.

After making a strong case for rethinking widely accepted ideas about how children ought to read and what they ought to be reading, Allyn provides an extensive, annotated reading list that has been labelled for emerging, developing and maturing readers. Whether seeking a title for a boy who enjoys action and adventure, humor or mechanics and technology, there is something for even the most reluctant reader.

This is a great resource for families and teaching professionals, highly recommended.

Pam Allyn’s Best Books for Boys: How to Engage Boys in Reading in Ways That Will Change Their Lives at Amazon.com

Pam Allyn’s Best Books for Boys: How to Engage Boys in Reading in Ways That Will Change Their Lives at Amazon.ca

Storytime Standouts suggests 35 ways to engage reluctant readersYou may be interested in our page about reluctant readers.


Surrounded by Testosterone: My Thoughts About The Loser List

Posted on April 25th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts writes about The Loser ListThe Loser List – written and illustrated by Holly N. Kowitt
Anti bullying (handwritten text, generously illustrated) chapter book published by Scholastic



Be sure to check out our page about anti-bullying picture books for children, our page about anti bullying chapter books, graphic novels and novels for children , and our Pinterest anti bullying board

I spent the Easter weekend with three teenaged boys and so it was only fitting that I should reach for The Loser List when I had some time to read. It is a generously illustrated chapter book that is very reminiscent of Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Danny Shine is twelve years old and in grade seven. He’s not good at sports but he loves to draw. When Danny runs afoul of Chantal Davis, she informs him that she’ll be adding his name to the loser list in the girl’s bathroom at school. Danny’s best friend, Jasper is not worried about being labelled as a geek and doesn’t care if his name is put on the loser list but Danny is bothered by the threat. A lunchtime tangle with the school’s biggest bully (Axl Ryan) followed by a failed attempt to remove his name from the loser list results in Danny joining Axl and other members of the Skull gang in an after school detention. “We stared at each other. Him: studded wristband, greasy blond hair stuffed into a do-rag, and army jacket. Me: Acme Exterminators tee, video watch and grandfather sweater.” Danny is terrified of Axl and is sure he will be beaten until Axl shows off his Sharpie tattoo and Danny knows that he can draw “Something really cool and unique, something that’s you know, worthy of the Skulls.”

It is not long until the threat of a beating subsides and Danny is creating cool tattoos for Axl and his sidekicks. Danny enjoys his new celebrity until Axl steals a comic book from a shop Danny frequents. Suddenly Danny finds himself accused of theft and regretting his association with the thugs.

A clever tactic by Danny and Jasper enables Danny to escape the clutches of the gang and restore his reputation.

Best for children aged eight through twelve, The Loser List has a positive message about self acceptance and friendship. It will have a special appeal for boys

The Loser List at Amazon.com

The Loser List at Amazon.ca

Looking for Great Chapter Book to Read Aloud? This One’s a Masterpiece

Posted on December 5th, 2008 by Carolyn Hart

Masterpiece by Elise Broach, illustrated by Kelly Murphy
Chapter book for children published by Christy Ottavians Books, Henry Holt and Company





People often ask me to recommend a chapter book to share with young children. Often they have made the transition from picture books to chapter books and find themselves overwhelmed by the selection of books on the shelf. This month I want to wholeheartedly recommend Masterpiece. It tells the story of a very unusual friendship that develops between James Pompaday and a beetle named Martin who lives under the kitchen sink in his apartment. When James’ father gives him a pen and ink set for his birthday, it is Martin who creates an astonishingly good miniature picture. James is credited with artistic talent and before long James and Martin are working together as they attempt to thwart an art thief.

Highly recommended as a chapter book read aloud and/or for children (grade four +) to read independently.

Masterpiece at Amazon.com

Masterpiece at Amazon.ca




A Quirky, Pleasant Read Aloud for 9-12 year olds – The Funeral Director’s Son

Posted on September 1st, 2008 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts Suggests Read Aloud for 9-12 year olds: The Funeral Director's SonThe Funeral Director’s Son by Coleen Murtagh Paratore
Chapter Book for Middle Grade Readers published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers






This summer I have really focussed on delving into chapter books for children who are able to read independently but may need some help in locating good books. I selected a number of books that target 9 -12 year olds. I read a couple of them aloud to my ten year old.

Possibly the quirkiest book we read was The Funeral Director’s Son by Coleen Murtagh Paratore. I really had no idea what to expect and hoped that the cover, which is somewhat flowery, would not deter a hockey-playing ten year old male. Anyhow, I read and he happily listened. We both enjoyed the Charles Dickens quotes that preceded each chapter (at times quizzing Daddy to name the source of the quote). The relatively short chapters will appeal to some reluctant readers who may be overwhelmed by longer books. On more than one occasion we read three or four chapters in one evening. Ms. Paratore poses an interesting question: What happens when the heir apparent to a family business is not at all interested in taking up the reins and can’t wait to escape life in a small town? The Funeral Director’s Son offered a breezy, enjoyable glimpse of a rather unusual family life wrapped up in a fun read aloud for 9-12 year olds.

The Funeral Director’s Son at Amazon.com

The Funeral Director’s Son at Amazon.ca




Darkside: Suspense for Middle Grade Readers in Secret London

Posted on August 26th, 2008 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts Recommends Suspense for Middle Grade ReadersDarkside written by Tom Becker
Suspense Novel for Middle Grade Readers published by Orchard Books





Yesterday’s blog post introduced Measle and the Wrathmonk. Today’s book will appeal to a similar demographic – middle grade boys and girls. Darkside is the first in a suspenseful and exciting fantasy series about a secret part of London. Inhabited by dangerous characters, this underbelly of London is nothing like the city we see on postcards or television. The atmosphere in Darkside is gothic and intense. We accompany fourteen year old Jonathan on his frightening journey to save himself and his father. His first trip into this mysterious location is both disturbing and intriguing. At the conclusion we are certain that one trip to Darkside will not be enough.

If you dare, visit Tom Becker’s Homepage.

Darkside at Amazon.com

Darkside at Amazon.ca


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