Every now and then, because I am a nerd, I read books about reading and how to help others find books they might enjoy. Recently I looked through Michael Sullivan's reference book Serving Boys Through Readers Advisory, and found it to be kind of an interesting little read and handy guide for thinking about how boys read.
I've always been quite interested in gender differences and reading preferences*, to the point where I have actually wandered around Barnes and Noble on a regular basis specifically to see what sections men and women are browsing in, so this book spoke to a longstanding interest in readers and readers' advisory. Also, now that I have a little boy, it's personal.**
The first finding in this book that I found very interesting was Sullivan's citing the finding that "boys read, on average, a year and a half below girls throughout their school years, with a small gap from the first day of school and the widest gap later on." (p. 15.) That's pretty significant, and makes me snort with indignation when I think about "reading levels," "lexile" numbers, and Accelerated Reader programs that make no distinction between boy and girl readers. I also enjoyed the findings that boys read and enjoy nonfiction from an early age, and that they often pick books far ahead of their abilities (including a wide variety of adult books). Sullivan points out that this can actually be just fine--even if the boy doesn't know what five or more words per page mean (a standard distinction for finding whether a book is at a child's level or not, evidently), he can often get what he needs out of the text anyway by just reading and accepting what he DOES understand. I can see, then, why nonfiction appeals--it's easier to skim, and to read in stops and starts.
I also love the section on working with parents and kids--pointing out that a good first question for dads (and, to a lesser extent, mothers and other family members) looking for books for their boys is "what has the boy seen YOU reading?" I have long believed that public libraries in particular are very good about running programs to encourage kids to read, but do not do enough to support adult readers--primarily because I believe that if kids saw their parents reading, they'd be interested in reading too.
The book concludes with chapters of nice sample book talks and booklists for elementary, middle school, and high school age boys; and book lists in a variety of genres, including nonfiction, humor, fantasy, sf, gothic horror, sports, and realistic.
*Much more so than, say, age differences, although I suppose that will change as I age.
**I've been very nervous about and relieved to check off CRjr's various developmental milestones, but the physical skill that made me cry with joy was when he first started flipping the pages of his board books by himself. Oh, and feeding himself. I LOVE watching him feed himself--with both hands, unceasingly, until his food is gone. He's got his mother's appetite.