Saturday, January 12, 2013

Books for Boys

When I taught fifth grade several years ago, my classroom was overrun with boys, thirteen to be exact! Needless to say, there was never a dull moment. Thinking fast, I grabbed a book one day and began reading to my students. I always positioned myself a few steps ahead of them. I began integrating storytime into our daily routine. Sound childish? Not on your life! It worked like a snake charmer. The boys especially looked forward to story time.

Now, for the challenge of finding good books for boys. I ran to the library, scoured the bookstores and scanned lists online. I became a book junkie, a book hoarder. I read during my lunch break, at the doctor's office, at the park with my kids.

One day in the classroom I hit pay dirt. One of my male students approached my desk and asked me quietly, "Mrs. Hawes, what are you reading?" Then more questions came, "What books do you recommend?" "Can I borrow that book when you're done?" It was contatgous, like the flu virus in winter. Storytime became the most anticipated part of the school day. We started with Richard Peck's The Teacher's Funeral and laughed our heads off. Frank Peretti's Hangman's Curse came next, and we slithered in our seats at the explosion of spiders. Next, we read two classics by Gary Paulsen, Hatchet and Lawn Boy and learned that anything was possible.

Of course, when I read to my mostly male audience, I always ended the book at the perfect place of supense. (They informed me they were never going to speak to me again.) Sadly disappointed, they returned to their homework, wishing tomorrow would hurry up.By the end of the year, the reluctant readers had raised the bar for themselves and were now reading for recreation. Mission Accomplished.

The two upper middle-grade fiction novels I just completed fall into the category of Books for Boys. Having two teenagers, I still strive to find the perfect well-written novel full of action, adventure and suspense for my boys to read. While the books I've written will appeal more to boys, I believe girls will be attracted to them as well. I want to say a big thanks to that crazy classroom full of boys!