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Summary: We're failing our boys by ignoring their interests
Review: I heard about this book on Amazon, and quickly picked it up. As a teacher of middle school English learners who will soon be transitioning to mainstream classes, I have had many battles with students, especially boys, who hate to read. At the beginning of the year, I have my students complete this statement on a piece of paper: "When I read, I feel....". From the boys, I've gotten such responses as "bored", "tired", "sleepy", and, strangely enough, "hungry". The reality is, our male students are falling through the cracks because they are not engaged with the texts. If students aren't engaged by "Death of a Salesman" or "The Scarlet Letter", then why do we still force them to read these books? One solution to solving the problem of low literacy skills among boys would be to allow more book choices. Literature circles are great, because they give students a choice. If one circle is reading "Lord of the Flies" and doesn't want to read it, then he could get in the group that's reading the book he wants to read. "Reading Don't Fix No Chevys" is an insightful, well-researched book that I have been recommending to all my fellow Language Arts and ESL/ELD teachers. Bravo!
Summary: Brilliant and Inspiring for Any Teacher of Language Arts
Review: This book significantly changed the way I, as a teacher of Language Arts, think about what we do in secondary classrooms every day. Without ever being strident or laying blame, the authors methodically, movingly demonstrate that in so many ways, most middle schools and high schools are still far off the mark in how they teach English. And yet, the answer is right there--all we have to do is listen to the kids.
Sure, it's easy for us to listen to the good readers, the ones who zipped through "Lord of the Rings" in 5th grade, who devour books. But when do we really listen and respond to the needs of those kids--particularly, as the authors point out, boys--who never read, who say they hate to read?
The authors studied, and carried on extensive dialogues, with 49 boys in grades 7-12. What they found will shock and dismay some readers. To others, it will come as no surprise. Still others may see it as a call to action: Increasingly, many children--and boys in particular--fail to make any significant connection with what goes on in the language arts classroom. Even passionate teachers may be of little help, so long as they insist on imposing the conventional canon of "great literature" on all students. What's more, students who resist traditional reading are by no means necessarily illiterate. Many are highly competent readers of computer manuals, sports magazines, graphic novels and internet communications--to name just a few. Many are passionate about these alternative literary activities. But they find no reinforcement for them in school; often, it is quite the opposite.
The authors argue that we must reach students first through the literate activities they already know and value, and tap into these interests, these sometimes unconventional literacies, as ways to engage them in meaningful, real activities. Then, if all goes well, they will begin to seek out wonder and meaning in ways that go deeper than the surface, and the door may open, for some, on that world of symbolic, philosophical, emotional meaning that is so valued by teachers and other lifelong readers.
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