Everyone agrees that if boys don't read well, it's because they don't read enough. But why don't they read? A considerable number of teachers and librarians believe that boys are simply bored by the "stuffy" literature they encounter in school. According to a revealing Associated Press story in July these experts insist that we must "meet them where they are"—that is, pander to boys' untutored tastes.
For elementary- and middle-school boys, that means "books that exploit [their] love of bodily functions and gross-out humor." AP reported that one school librarian treats her pupils to "grossology" parties. "Just get 'em reading," she counsels cheerily. "Worry about what they're reading later."
I agree and disagree with this idea. I definitely agree that for all children, exposure to reading and more opportunities to read will make them better readers.
I do not agree that "stuffy" literature deters boys from reading. I think their needs to be a balance. There are many books throughout my education that I absolutely detested. This did not stop me from reading. It instead helped me determine my tastes and choices in personal reading. It is however, important to realize that I had a foundation in literacy and reading that went well beyond the school day. From the time I could walk my mom took me to the library and story hour was a favorite. We read everyday...usually multiple times. As I got older I am sure I was influenced by seeing those read around me. My mom reads daily and my dad, even though he didn't read books, read the newspaper religiously. Growing up and seeing authority figures read is important.
So what about "gross" humor. In all honesty I don't see the harm in that. It is not like all adult literature is better. With adults you might not get "gross" but I don't think anyone can deny the presence of trashy novels in bookstores. I think that we should be encouraging children to find books that tailor to their interests. If they want to read Captain Underpants or Goosebumps, let them read it. They will grow out of these books (well hopefully), but likely will not grow out of reading.
Now letting children ONLY pick their books is a mistake in my book. I think as teachers we have the responsibility to share quality literature with the children in our class. We are essentially showing them the different types of books they too can read. I also think reader's response activities are important. Not only are they good for comprehension, they help children realize they do not have to like every story.
In my classroom, boys and girls equally enjoy when we read out loud and reading time. It is not a "boys" thing or a "girls" thing. I personally hope it stays that way.
Here is a link to the full article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704271804575405511702112290.html?KEYWORDS=spence