Saturday, December 22, 2012

Therapy Dogs in Every School

Boys Read opposes the NRA's proposal to put armed officers in every school.  We strongly support having therapy dogs in every school.  A School-Resource Officer (SRO) can be helpful for curbing violence in schools.  However, they are simply cost prohibitive and a reactive and defensive approach.  In 2007, the Department of Justice estimated the annual cost of employing a law-enforcement officer averaged $116,500.

Boys Read believes that schools need more counselors; especially male counselors that can identify boys that are at-risk of dropping out of school and of being incarcerated or violent to themselves or others.  Boys need men and women to connect with.  Every school needs at least one male and female counselor.  Every child must be accounted for.  Every child deserves our best effort to connect them to our society as a whole.  There is a place for each unique individual.

One best-practice that can be accomplished is to bring therapy dogs into schools.  A creative university in Canada recently had success with using therapy dogs as stress-relievers.  For the full best-practice story, click here.

Also, click here for a doggone good way to get reluctant readers to read.

In summary, as educators, we must stand up and fight for creative, proactive ways to help our kids.  If we don't speak up now, we will all be the victims of big business, political driven mandates. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings

What is your school doing to get men reading with boys?  We have to find more ways to connect with boys in their early school years and stay connected with them until they are well-established literate men.

Educators, please read this book: "Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings" (Basic Books, 2004).  It is by Katherine S. Newman.  She is the James B. Knapp Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins University.  Click here for Rampage.

Below are key take aways from an excellent article published on CNN:
  • Bucolic country towns are locus for most school shootings in U.S.
  • She says her research shows patterns in such shootings; they are often planned far in advance
  • She says attackers often hint at plans; they long to fit in, gain peers' attention acceptance
  • We must provide settings for children to confide in adults
"One reason shooters tip their hands is that they are trying to solve a problem. Though they are often intelligent, high-performing boys, their peers tend to see them as unattractive losers, weak and unmanly. In a school culture that values sports prowess over academic accomplishment, they face rejection. The shooters are rarely loners, but tend instead to be failed joiners, and their daily social experience is full of friction. Since they are almost always mentally or emotionally ill, those rejections -- so common in adolescence -- take on greater importance and become a fixation. Rebuffed after trying to join friendship groups, they look for ways to gain attention, to reverse their damaged."

For the full article, click here.

What is your school doing to get men reading with boys?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Tips For Getting Boys To Write

Below are tips for getting boys to write.  They are from an article that Ralph Fletcher posted on Education Week's blog.  Ralph Fletcher is the author of Guy-Write: What Every Guy Writer Needs to Know (Henry Holt) and Boy Writers: Reclaiming Their Voices (Stenhouse).

Mr. Fletcher has spent most of his professional career helping teachers find wiser ways of teaching writing. In the past few years he's become interested in how we might do a better job of engaging our boy writers. Empirical and anecdotal evidence suggests that boy writers are struggling. According to the most recent NAEP test results (2011) 38% of 8th grade girls scored "proficient" or above--only 18% of 8th grade boys scored proficient.

Tips For Getting Boys To Write:

*Try to understand boy writers instead of judging them. Let's face it: elementary teachers, who are overwhelmingly female, may not always "get" boy writers and their quirks, strengths, and struggles. Sometimes we may look at boys as defective girls (I have done this myself) try to notice what unique strengths boys bring to the table.

Boys and girls really are different, and I'm convinced that some of that difference is biological. A mother I know has two girls and two boys. She told me: "The boys made sound effects, almost from the moment when they could vocalize. My daughters never did that."

Boy writing often differs from the writing created by girls. (For instance, in his book Why Gender Matters Leonard Sax points out that in their drawings, little girls draw nouns whereas little boys draw verbs/action.) Try to appreciate the difference.

*Tune in to boy's humor. Your relationship to your male students will improve substantially if you can broaden your sense of humor. Boys revel in offbeat, subversive humor. That's why Captain Underpants and The Simpson's are universally adored by boys.

*Embrace choice. Once upon a time choice was a staple in writing classroom but as I go around the country I'm sad to report that I see less and less real choice in writing classrooms. This is so unfortunate. We all know the power of a "just-write book," but what about the power of a "just-write topic" for writing? We must allow boys the opportunity to choose what to write about and how to express themselves.

*Bring boy-friendly mentor texts into the classroom. A book like Jon Scieszka's Knucklehead, for instance, will give boys an image of what their writing could look and sound like.

*Build on strengths. When a boy's story gets covered with corrections, he will get overwhelmed and discouraged. Praise is a crucial ingredient in nurturing boy writers. It's important to find something the student has done well, and point it out to them.

*Let them see you write. And share your writing with your students. It sounds simple, but it's so important. This will earn you major street cred! Boys will respect that you're taking the same risk that they are taking.

*Don't punish boys for poor handwriting. Primary age boys lag girls in small motor coordination, which contributes to messy handwriting and puts them at a disadvantage in the classroom. Try not to make handwriting a bone of contention. "If you can read it, and I can read it, it's good enough." The world seems to be moving inexorably toward keyboarding, so handwriting should become non-issue in the future.

*Be realistic about revision. We should talk to students about the drafting process, showing them craft elements and encouraging them to try those strategies in their writing. But for many boys it's one (draft) and done. That's okay. Don't belabor the drafting process. Most boys have a finite amount of energy for any one writing task. If you watch carefully you may notice that a boy will use the new writing strategy on his next piece of writing.

*Go for engagement first; the quality will come later. A teacher friend recently told me this story:

I could tell that my boy students were already turned off when we started writing workshop at the beginning of the year.

"We can't write what we really want," they said. "Like, we can't have any shooting, or stuff like that."

"I'm not so sure about that," I told them.

The boys looked at each other, surprised. One boy asked:

"Could we have, like, a story with us shooting at some aliens?"

"I don't see why not," I replied.

The boys stared in amazement. "Really?"

"Would it be okay if we had to blow up their planet?" another boy wanted to know.

"Sure," I told them.

The boys were ecstatic. And off they went, passionately writing their sci-fi stories.

If boys are already checked out, how successful can we possibly be at helping them improve their writing? Moving toward them, embracing the passions and the things that move them, seems like a small price to pay if we are serious about our goal helping boys become life-long writers.

Click here for the full article

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

National American Indian Heritage Month: Nov. 1 - Nov. 30

Black Elk's Vision

Something To Hold

Nov. 1 - Nov. 30 is National American Indian Heritage Month.  I strongly recommend two books for teachers and librarians for celebrating our American Indian Heritage.  One is Black Elk's Vision: A Lakota Story.  The other is Something To Hold.

Click here for Black Elk's Vision.  Click here for Something To Hold.

There are about 5 million American Indians and Alaska Natives in the United States. The American Federation of Teacher's (AFT ) has resources to help educators promote these groups' rich cultures in their classrooms.  Click here for American Federation of Teacher's resources.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Incident at Hawk's Hill

A Newbery Honor classic that is well worth a read with boys and girls.  The story is skillfully told by Allan Eckert.  As a young man, Allan Eckert hitch-hiked around the United States, living off the land and learning about wildlife. He began writing about nature and American history at the age of thirteen, eventually becoming an author of numerous distinguished books for children and adults. Seven of his books have been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in literature. Incident at Hawk's Hill, won the Newbery Honor award in 1972.

In this story, six-year-old Ben gets lost in the wilderness near his farm.  The setting is the vast prairies outside of Winnipeg in 1870.  Ben has a gift for communicating with animals.  He uses this unique skill to establish a bond with a female badger who has recently been injured by an animal trap.  While caught in the trap, the badger's new litter dies.  Ben ends up helping heal the badger's injured foot and the badger adopts Ben as one of her own.  An endearing relationship develops between boy and badger and a page-turning survival story unfolds.

This is the kind of book that I love to discover for the first time. I found it at a public library sale.  Well-worn and yellowed, it was a real treat to read with my eleven-year-old daughter.  It's not easy to find copies of, so I feel lucky to have found one for less than $1.00. What a deal!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Bone Collector's Son

I'm thrilled to have found Paul's Yee's 2003 story, The Bone Collector's Son.


It is 1907 in Vancouver. Fourteen-year-old Bing-wing Chan resents his father, not only because the man gambles away all their money, but also because he now forces Bing to help him in his gruesome job. Ba is the bone collector, the one who digs up skeletons of deceased Chinese so that they can be sent home to China for permanent burial. Sinister things start happening soon after Bing accompanies his father to the graveyard.

"...a worthwhile read for its unique plot that combines mystery, ghosts and embedded Chinese folk tales. As well, it is one of Yee's most well-written, intriguing novels. It will appeal to male readers who may discover that most 14-year-olds endure similar internal struggles in self identity no matter from what culture they come."
--CM (Canadian Review of Materials) Vol. 10, No. 16, 8 April 2004

"Yee intertwines realism and ghost story very naturally, bringing both material circumstances and traditional spiritual beliefs alive. Earnest, courageous Bing makes an appealing protagonist, and the story, with its quick dialogue and precise allusions to region and culture is always engaging."
--Toronto Star 28 March 2004.

"Vancouver's Chinatown in 1907 is the setting for this novel, in which the spirits of the dead come back to haunt the living. Despite the subject matter, Paul Yee's light, deft touch ensures that his book is anything but ghoulish.
--Globe and Mail 17 January 2004

"Paul Yee is building up an impressive body of work. His background in Canadian history serves him well, but his real strength lies in his ability to let history serve the story, instead of the other way around. [This] is a profluent, tightly paced, highly enjoyable story that happens to take place neither long ago nor far away."
--Vancouver Sun, 8 November 2003.

To Learn more about Paul Yee's amazing work, click here:

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Into The Land of Snows

A troubled, sixteen year old Blake travels to Base Camp on Mt. Everest to spend time with his physician father.  When a deadly avalanche occurs, Dad is forced to rethink things and sends Blake off the mountain.  Now accompanied by a Sherpa guide, and in possession of a mysterious camera, Blake undertakes a journey which will challenge everything he believes.  In the magical Himalayas, he will be forever changed by what he experiences.

This very cool adventure story is by Ellis Nelson.  Ellis has worked as an Air Force officer, government contractor, and teacher.  She has had an interest in Buddhism since childhood.  Currently, she lives in the Denver area with her husband.

To learn more about Ellis Nelson's work, click here.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Rock of Ivanore

The annual Great Quest is about to be announced in Quendel, a task that will determine the future of Marcus and the other boys from the village who are coming of age. The wizard Zyll commands them to find the Rock of Ivanore, but he doesn't tell them what the Rock is exactly, or where it can be found. Marcus must reach deep within himself to develop new powers of magic and find the strength to survive the wild lands and fierce enemies he encounters as he searches for the illusive Rock. With more twists and turns than a labyrinth, and a story in which nothing is as it seems, this tale of deception and discovery keeps readers in suspense until the end.

This unique novel is by Laurisa White Reyes.  Laurisa has been writing since the age of 5 when she wrote her first poem on a scrap of poster board. After earning a degree in English at California State University at Northridge, she spent thirteen years writing for various magazines and newspapers, working as a book editor, and teaching creative writing. She gave up all that six years ago to follow her lifelong dream of writing novels.  Besides writing, Laurisa is also a voracious reader. She also loves musical theater, chocolate, sushi, ancient history, bearded dragons, and rain storms.  She lives in Southern California with her husband, 5 children, 4 birds, 2 lizards, 2 turtles, 1 fish, 1 dog, and a partridge in a pear tree.

To learn more about Laurisa White Reyes, click here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Corporal Ron's Borneo Warrior Rescue

Corporal Ron’s Borneo Warrior Rescue is an adventure story that should appeal to boys aged 10+, as well as eco-warriors. It is a unique, fast-paced story about a fascinating country and a long forgotten “secret” war. Featuring Ron, a Royal Air Force radio operator, working amongst the Dayaks of Borneo, the story follows the perilous mission that Ron and two young warriors undertake through the rainforest. Along the way they must each face challenges while learning about the others cultures and the ways of the jungle.
This story is also a great introduction to one of our rare rainforests: Borneo and its people, flora and fauna. This well-researched war-time story has drama, wit and fun. Information panels, at the end of each section, highlight the plight of the endangered species such as orang utans.

The story is a work of fiction by Sandra Arthur. It was written as a tribute to her father. As a child, Sandra lived with her family in Singapore, while her father worked in Borneo. She has since lived in various cities in the United Kingdom, briefly spent time in Canada and travelled extensively around North America, Europe and Asia, including Borneo.

She is passionate about Borneo and has devoted much of her free time to promoting and raising funds to assist the endangered orangutans. To learn more about Sandra, click here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


With great admiration and respect, I highly recommend CHEETAH. This refreshing book is by Suzi Eszterhas, an award-winning wildlife photographer based in California. Best known for her work documenting family life on the African savanna, she has undertaken commissions and led instructional photography tours and workshops everywhere from Antarctica to the Arctic and Alaska to Montana. Suzi is a member of the prestigious International League of Conservation Photographers, and her books encourage children to respect and appreciate wildlife. Her books feature a list of organizations and websites where children and educators can find more information on how to protect wild cheetahs and gorillas. Suzi's photographs have been published in books, magazines and newspapers all over the world and she is a Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers.

To learn more about Suzi's published work, click here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Have a boy who loves hockey? Canadian author, Lorna Schultz Nicholson has a wonderful series of hockey books. The first in a series of eight books is INTERFERENCE.

In INTERFERENCE Josh has finally made it to an elite hockey team and is determined to play as well as his older brother Matt. But Josh is so tired all the time. Little does everyone know, Josh’s undiagnosed Type 1 diabetes is working against him- and getting more serious by the day. This story has a great inner and outer goal for Josh, our protagonist. I highly recommend trying this series with a boy who loves sports, but is a reluctant reader. The subject matter is appealing to boys and the reading level is challenging enough, but not too hard for struggling readers. It's very important for us to serve up many reading choices for boys.

These awesome hockey books are written by Lorna Schultz Nicholson. Lorna grew up in St. Catharines, Ontario, and as a child loved to read and write. But then athletics took over and she put it all aside to be a jock. She even went so far as to get her B Sc. in Human Performance from the University of Victoria. With her degree, she worked as the Fitness and Recreation Co-ordinator at UVic where she also coached rowing.

To learn more about Lorna Schultz Nicholson's books, click here.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Haunting of Nathaniel Wolfe

Few writers get recommended by Philip Pullman, and Brian Keaney is one of them. I actually sensed the ghost of Dickens within the first few chapters. If you're looking for a new writer, I highly recommend Mr. Keaney.

Below is what the The Haunting of Nathaniel Wolfe is all about:

Up there on the stage beside his father was a shadow, a shape, blurred at first but becoming clearer with every passing moment until finally he was looking at the figure of a woman, dressed in a long white robe. Her eyes were the palest blue and they were fixed directly on him. With every fibre of his being he knew her for what she was: a ghost. Hers was a life that had departed its earthly body but was not yet prepared to release its grip on the world for ever. There was unfinished business she yet had to perform. But why, out of all the millions of individuals on the face of the planet had she chosen him for her haunting?

1862. London. Outside a dingy theatre in the East End of London a line of people waits silently. It is cold enough to chill your bones, but they are not deterred. They have been drawn here by the promise that on this night the dead will speak from beyond the grave.

Twelve year old Nathaniel sits in his place by the door taking their money. For him it is just a job. He does not believe in spirits. But he will soon be forced to change his mind for when the hall is full and the doors are shut Nathaniel’s life will change forever.

Click here to learn more about Brian Keaney.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Julio's Magic

It's hard to find books that appeal to hispanic boys. Julio's Magic is the perfect choice for boys and girls.

Julio and his friend Iluminado, an older, master wood-carver, find ideas in the forest where they gather wood. Musicians, angels, and amazing creatures of all kinds hide in every curving branch.

This year there is a contest with a big prize for the best carving in the land, and Julio wants to enter. All through the Mexican village where Julio and Iluminado live, people are saying that the carvings Julio is making for the contest are great. When Julio sees how hard times are for Iluminado, whose eyesight is failing and whose crops are not good, Julio has some decisions to make about friendship and generosity.

Julio's Magic was written by Arthur Dorros. He's a prolific artist with more than thirty published titles! He writes on his website, "Working on each new book is exciting for me. I've found a wide range of subjects and experiences surfacing in my work, from interests in science to high-flying adventures, from the usually unseen—trees growing, to the unlikely to be seen—flying grandmother and granddaughter. I believe that everyone has stories to tell. I've enjoyed visiting children in hundreds of schools around the country, helping them find their own stories. Part of writing and illustrating is like being a detective, with senses as alert as possible, always on the lookout for new ideas and pieces that help put the whole story together."

Click here to learn more about all of Arthur Dorros' books.

Friday, February 10, 2012

VIKRAM And The Enchanted Seals

Vikram, an apathetic kid from California, doesn’t want to be in India. But a death in the family leaves him no other choice. So he finds himself in a rural village, at his ancestral home where he meets his imposing grandfather. A special bond forms between them, and the old man gives Vikram an enchanted seal – a mystical relic from India's earliest civilization. It turns out that the seal is one of only a handful that combine to form the Dharma Cube, the most powerful weapon against evil the world has ever seen. Before Vikram can fully grasp the seal's profound significance, Grandpa is taken by Rakshasas – evil giants from the epic Ramayana – who are intent on destroying the Cube once and for all. Vikram enlists the help of younger brother Jai, and Manu, the family’s loyal servant, to search for Grandpa. Their journey takes them through the various landscapes of India: historical, mythological, artistic, philosophical, and natural. Tension mounts when Vikram realizes that he alone must unlock the secrets of his seal and the Dharma Cube, not just to rescue Grandpa, but to save all of humanity.

This very cool book is by Sanjiv Behear. Sanjiv was born in October, 1969, to Indian immigrant parents in Manitoba, Canada. He and his family moved to Southern California when he was four. Some of his fondest memories involve spending summer vacations lounging on the sands of Redondo Beach.

His family moved often, to various spots in California, both southern and northern. He spent his college years at UCLA, where he studied economics and anthropology.

Sanjiv has a strong affinity for eastern mythology, comics, basketball, and pizza. Currently, Sanjiv resides in Arizona with his wife and four children.

Click here to learn more.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman

The story behind Superman is sure to capture the imagination of reluctant readers. Jerry Siegal and Joe Shuster, two misfit teens in Depression-era Cleveland, were more like Clark Kent—meek, mild, and myopic—than his secret identity, Superman. Both boys escaped into the worlds of science fiction and pulp magazine adventure tales. Jerry wrote stories, and Joe illustrated them. In 1934, they created a superhero who was everything they were not. It was four more years before they convinced a publisher to take a chance on their Man of Steel in a new format—the comic book. The author includes a provocative afterword about Jerry and Joe’s long struggle with DC Comics when they realized they had made a mistake in selling all rights to Superman for a mere $130!

I love Superman and loved this book. Marc Tyler Nobleman’s text captures the excitement of Jerry and Joe’s triumph, and the energetic illustrations by Ross MacDonald, the author-artist of Another Perfect Day, are a perfect complement to the time, the place, and the two young visionaries. Marc is the author of more than 70 books including "Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman," which received multiple starred reviews and made the front page of "USA Today".

Click here for Marc's blog. Click here to buy Boys of Steel.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Something To Hold

A poignant voice has arisen from the soul of a master storyteller. My daughter, who's eleven loved this book. She was very disappointed when the story was over, a sure sign of a great novel! I loved it too. The storyline is fast-moving and all of the characters are well developed. Typically, boys like stories from a male protagonist point of view. However, this is a perfect cross-over book for classroom teaching. I highly recommend it for humanities. There are many layers for deep and meaningful discussions with your students. From an American History perspective, it's a door-opener for exploring our past through the eyes of our modern world. Kids get a lifelike feel for living on a Native American Reservation.

You can start with this premise: Can a white girl feel at home on an Indian reservation?

Inspired by the author’s childhood experiences in the early 1960s, this debut novel centers on Kitty, whose father is a government forester on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation in Oregon. Kitty is one of only two white kids in her class, and the Indian kids are keeping their distance. With time, Kitty becomes increasingly aware of the tensions and prejudices between Indians and whites, and of the past injustice and pain still very much alive on the reservation.


"Kitty's discoveries and ethical dilemmas are age-and era-appropriate, the characters affectionately portrayed, rounded individuals."--Kirkus

"Based on the author's own experiences, this novel fills a gap in the historical fiction genre. Great for classroom discussion as well as independent reading." --School Library Journal

This unique novel is by Katherine Schlick Noe. She is a wonderful author, teacher, speaker, and literary specialist. Click here to visit Katherine's website. Be sure to visit her Teaching Ideas page by clicking here.

Friday, January 27, 2012


What would you do if the evil extreme predator in your video game came after real life?

Would you be ready?

With exciting, heartpounding, nonstop action, ECHO'S REVENGE is the first in an original new YA series written to capture the imagination of young readers who are passionate about playing online/video games.

Click here for ECHO'S REVENGE: The Ultimate Game

Monday, January 23, 2012

Teaching The Civil War

Below is a teaching the Civil War best-practice.

"I am a 9th grade Social Studies teacher for some wonderful students at a Charter School in California. We are currently learning about The Civil War. I just wanted to let you know that we have been using your, Brothers of War page . It's been so helpful for one of our projects in class. My students just absolutely loved your site!

One of my students came to me with another resource that was very helpful:

She thought it would be a perfect addition to your site of already valuable resources! (She is always going above and beyond...such a great kid!)

As educators, we may not like it that kids are interested in weapons, but many are. Boys are especially interested in reading about historical weapons. One of my continued top books to hook boys on reading is Ben Boo's book SWORDS. Ben tragically passed away last summer. By buying his book we help boys transform into lifelong readers and in a small way help support his family.

Please consider supporting Ben's family by buying copies his books. You can also help support Boys Read by purchasing copies of Brothers of War and The Bird.