Sunday, May 25, 2008

Casualties of war: How many is too much?

Casualities of war: How many is too much?   It's Memorial Day weekend, 2008.  How many of us stop to actually pay tribute to the men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country?  I'm the first to admit that I don't.  However, today I paused for a few minutes to at least educate myself on the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day.   Ask this question to your friends and family members: What's the difference between Memorial and Veterans Day?  Very few people can answer this simple question.   Memorial Day is to honor those Americans who actually died during an American war.   Veterans Day is to honor all those who served in the Armed Forces.

I have written a novel for boys about America's Civil War. The novel is called, Brothers of War. It's been estimated that around 620,000 Americans died in this tragic conflict. Click here for a breakdown. As of fall 2007, experts have estimated that over 1 million civilians will have died in Iraq. Click here for more information.

More than 4,000 US soldiers have been killed in Iraq since 2003. Click here for chart. How many is too much? If we worked at a peace process with a fraction of the energy and vigor we apply to war, the world would be a better place. I'm a firm believer that we must continue to teach American boys about the realities of war. Young men in America are bombarded by powerful and alluring advertising that appeal to a boy's fantasy of becoming a mythic war hero. Click here to visit Boys Read's War and Peace page.There are no easy answers. However, if enough of us try, we can evolve as peacemakers. If we don't evolve, America's sons and daughters will continue to die in futile military conflicts around the world.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Don't Fear The Kindle

Don't fear the Kindle. I've received a few emails from loyal readers who are concerned about Amazon's Kindle. First and foremost, this is another expensive ($399.00) toy that most people will find they can live without. Have you ever left a book on an airplane, a bus, a taxi? Who needs another gadget to lug around? I don't. I have a Blackberry, an ipod, and a laptop. Each one of these electronic gizmos have trouble from time to time. My books never fail to work. When I'm totally frustrated with technology, I open a good book. Like fine wine, my books get better with age.

The Kindle will never have the appeal of an ipod. With music, we want to select the best songs from a CD. We also need a compact, portable way of taking our music with us. The ipod delivers on our music needs. I love to be able to shuffle through artists and songs with my ipod. I have no desire to shuffle from one novel to another. Fiction and non-fiction allow me to go to another world. I like to linger in the "Other World."

There's a big difference with books and music. With books, we want the tangible item. We even want to be seen with the book. We love the weight of the book in our hands. We love the smell of the book when it's new and old. Here's an excerpt that we have posted on the Boys Read Best Books page. It's from one of my favorite books, "A Panther in the Basement".

"To this day you can take me to a room with my eyes closed and my ears plugged, and I can tell at once, without the slightest doubt, if it is a room full of books. I take in the smells of an old library not with my nostrils but through my skin, a kind of grave, pensive laden with book dust finer than any other dust, blended with the savor that emanates from old paper, mingled with the smell of glues ancient and modern, pungent thick almond scents, sourish sweat, intoxicating weed and iodine, and undertones of the lead smell of thick printer’s ink, and a smell of rotting paper, eaten away by damp and mildew, and of cheap paper that is crumbling to dust, contrasting with the rich, exotic, dizzying aromas emanating from fine imported paper that excite the palate."

-- Amos Oz

My favorite books for boys are the ones that fit into my hip pocket. I like thin, easy to read, action-packed stories. As book lovers, we must continue to buy books (from independent bookstores, if possible) and support writers. We must step to the plate for the book! Click here to go to our Best Books page

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Reading Wars

Below are some excellent excerpts from an article published online in Fredericksburg, VA. The author concludes that "Whoever encourages a child's appreciation for reading is a hero." This piece further points out that teaching reading skills remains elusive.

"A new study has found, however, that students in schools that received Reading First funding are doing no better on reading comprehension tests than their counterparts whose schools received no such money. Earlier studies comparing National Assessment of Educational Progress test scores indicate that the greatest recent gains in reading skills took place just before Reading First or NCLB were implemented."

"The truth lies not in heated rhetoric but in non-partisan research that addresses the lagging reading skills of American students. The ideal classroom reading regimen for America's students remains elusive."

"Maybe the problem is that good readers are not made in the classroom, but at home. Many educators believe that a love for reading is nurtured at home, soon after a child is born. Children who are read to from their earliest days and have ready access to books at home as they grow are most likely to become good readers and, in turn, good students."

"Whoever encourages a child's appreciation for reading is a hero."

For more up-to-date information on teaching reading in the classroom, click here to visit NEA's website.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Role of the Mentor

A key objective of Boys Read's mission is to establish Reading Tribes. Boys need to see men who are as passionate about books as they are about sports. While doing research about boys and addiction, I stumbled across Ross A. Laird's website ( Dr. Laird has an excellent description about the role of the mentor. When men serve as Reading Tribe leaders, they play an important mentor role in helping boys bond and connect with society.

The Role of the Mentor

The only way for an adolescent to develop integration, containment, and identity is
through mentorship. The impulse of kids to form groups is healthy. In evolutionary
terms, groups of young people seek leadership from adult mentors. In the absence
of healthy adult mentors, adolescents form a youth gang, which comes to be led by
the adolescent among them who is most aggressive, gregarious, or risk-prone. The
absence of mentorship for adolescents is the most serious problem in our society
today. Ross A. Laird, PhD