More than a decade ago at a conference with one hundred librarians I heard Michael Sullivan speak on the topic of boys and reading. Shortly after, I found and read an article he wrote an article he wrote on the subject entitled, Why Johnny Doesn’t Read. 1
Much of what I heard and read from Mr. Sullivan dovetailed with what I had already discovered in a book by Paul Kropp entitled, How to Make Your Child a Reader for Life. 2 It was that book that alerted me to three danger times when children tend to lose an interest in reading.
I was deeply concerned that might happen to our son, Justin, and was relieved to find we had already made it through danger zone number one: The need for exposure to language and story from birth to Kindergarten. I had been reading to Justin, every day of his life from infancy, but now he was about to enter third grade and was headed for danger zone number two: 4th grade. According to Kropp, “this is when a quarter to a third of all children begin losing interest in reading.” 3
Inspired by this revelation from Kropp’s book and with resolve to help insure Justin would graduate with a command of the English language, I decided to challenge Justin to begin writing with me for fun.
Anyone who has heard us speak at schools or conferences knows that is how The Adirondack Kids® sprang into existence. There was never the intention of writing a book, much less launch a small publishing company. The intention was to keep Justin engaged with words and to be able to express himself well on paper and in public.
By the time he had reached danger zone number three: 9th grade, he was well on his way toward graduation having co-authored nine of our books, handling interviews with reporters and appearing on radio and television. He was also totally comfortable speaking before audiences small and large. It became a way of life as natural as playing on a sports team or being involved in any activity that you practiced over time. Some parents play catch with their children tossing a football or baseball back and forth. We had fun playing catch with words.
We have enjoyed sharing what we have learned during our own literary sojourn and having had a modest part in reaching out to reluctant readers and children of all ages encouraging them to read and to continue reading.
Recently I have become a little nervous. Not because statistically boys are still behind in reading; that is still of great concern and our goal continues to help work to close that gap! I say nervous because some contemporary voices in children’s and YA literature are insisting that the notion that there is such a thing as ‘books for boys’ and ‘books for girls’ needs to disappear.
There will always be crossover, but the science and research abounds concerning the difference between boys and girls as it relates to reading in everything from the development of the brain to the subject matter and reading materials toward which each gender tends to gravitate.
This concern caused to me try and find Michael Sullivan who I heard speak some 14 years ago. And I found him, and was privileged to spend some wonderful time with what he called, “talking shop,” with him.
He calmed me down and pointed me to even more resources that I discovered reinforce the fact that there is such a thing as a typical boy reader a typical girl reader and so lists with suggestions of books for boys and books for girls need not be considered anathema!
If you happen to have a a reluctant reader in your life, boy or girl, we highly recommend Michael Sullivan’s book, Raising Boy Readers:With more than 300 recommended boy-friendly books, which was published just four years ago by Huron Press, an imprint of the American Library Association. Mr. Sullivan’s credentials and work in this field on sheets of paper in modest-sized type is longer than my arm. He is currently Director of the Weare Public Library in Weare, New Hampshire.
I am not sure exactly how it happened, but after 18 years of feedback from 18 books, we somehow seemed to have hit a sweet spot where both girls and boys equally engage with The Adirondack Kids® series. For that we are thankful.
We were also humbled when after reading several of the books in our series, Mr. Sullivan gave us some wonderful reviews on his website, www.talestoldtall.com , on Goodreads, and also gave us a shout-out on New Hampshire Public Radio. 4
1 - “Why Johnny Doesn’t Read.” School Library Journal, August, 2004
2 – Kropp, Paul. How to Make Your Child a Reader for Life, First Broadway Paperback Edition 2000
3 – Ibid. page 37
4 – Summer Reading for Kids & Teens: The Benefits, Struggles and Strategies, The Exchange on New Hampshire Public Radio, June 27, 2018. Host: K.J. Dell'Antonia Guests: Erin Moulton, Elizabeth Ellis & Michael Sullivan
Q: What have you found are some of the titles the boys in your life have enjoyed reading?
We recently made some new friends during our recent book talk at Central Square Public Library in Central Square, New York!
© 2018 Adirondack Kid Press, Ltd.