Re: RARA-AVIS: Boys & Reading

From: annvon78 (
Date: 30 Jul 2009

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    From my classroom experience, the textbooks are the biggest culprits. I think its business and politics in the public school system, not personal teacher or librarian prejudices that affect kids' interests. All kinds of state and local boards of education spend a lot of time, and receive a lot of lobbying, about which textbooks to choose. The kids are savvy -- they know the textbooks offer a lot of good stuff, but still, in my opinion, many kids are simply bored by the compendium of short stories that are meant to be "age appropriate" and are chosen solely to teach/learn many types of reading/writing skills. I don't think the anthologized writers necessarily intend for their stories to multi-task as "aides to create readers". I've taught 3rd, 6th, 7th and 8th graders and seen how textbooks are designed to build up skills. For example, a 7th grade textbook "I experienced a volcano in Oregon" story has certain skill-building goals, the 8th grade textbook "I experienced a volcan
     o in Alaska" version, almost one year to the date later, has a too-similar story that's slightly more "complex" with grade-appropriate activities. In 7th, teach paragraph sequence. In 8th, teach narrative voice. Or whatever the state reading standards for that year, that day, are. You get the picture. A lot of boys, especially, got so fed up with that kind of programmed reading. I remember the volcano example because I also remember a boy in 8th grade saying "we read this last year," so I went I checked the 7th grade textbook, and showed him how they were different. More girls than boys were dutiful in their approach to the work, just get the work done, don't complain if it's repetitive. Teachers are not allowed to teach without reference to the textbook's o, r the state standards' daily goals. There's indisputably a lot of good results from that kind of structure and consistency. But I believe many textbooks are limiting and dull the interest of some potentially imaginative
      readers. These anthologies have to include myths, biographies, poems, plays, diverse identities, social situations, locales, points-of-view, and it's hard for some kids to find something they enjoy and want to stick to while being exposed to such broad and varied offerings. Hard to the point of total turn-off.

    I agree about the fun insights into human relationships which good hardboiled supplies, like The Glass Key, etc. In my experience you don't see that kind of real life dialogue, sophisticated wit and repartee, in textbooks often enough. The weight is toward encomiums, testimonials and confessionals. But writers of television shows and movies supply a lot of witty elliptical dialogue these days, so no wonder middle schoolers often come to school bleary eyed from late-night listening/watching!

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