Books & Boys – A Review of Pam Allyn’s Best Books for Boys

”Reading can feel as risky as walking a tightrope even if it doesn’t look nearly as daring.” – Pam Allyn

We feel very fortunate to be asked to read and review Pam Allyn’s new book Best Books for Boys: How to Engage Boys in Reading in Ways That Will Change Their Lives. It was a book that we found ourselves highlighting, nodding our heads and even saying “yes!” at several points while reading. Pam’s commitment to our boy readers, and all children, is evident through the work she has done with LitWorld, and her other books for teachers. This is a book that needs to be in the hands of all teachers – for them and for the boys in their classrooms. Best Books for Boys is for any teacher searching for ways to “hook” the boy readers in his or her classroom.

Allyn writes, “All of us, but it seems boys especially, are taught to dislike what we cannot do well. To avoid that trap, let us balance challenge and comfort.”  It is with challenge and comfort that she sets up her classroom environment, immerses boys in great books, provides opportunity for book choice, and encourages book clubs and partnerships where boys can talk, laugh, and explore books together.

Covering just about every topic and genre imaginable, Pam gives us a wonderful selection of books, including poetry, non-fiction, and fiction, to entice our boy readers.  She divides those titles and reviews into emergent, developing, and maturing to further make it easy for her readers to use this resource.  We can all expand our repertoire of great reads by keeping this book handy.

We love how Pam supports us in creating classroom environments that foster a love of reading in all students, including our most reluctant boy readers. Here is our “don’t forget list” as we plan for next school year.  We need:

–    a well-stocked, diverse classroom library that reflects not only the levels but also the interests of our students

–    to show boys why people read: “To laugh. To discover. To research, wonder, and imagine.” and help them develop reasons of their own

–     to invite male role models into the classroom to talk about their reading

–     to value different kinds of reading including magazines, web sites, blogs, comics, graphic novels and video games

–     to be responsive to active learners and to provide space for boys to be themselves

–     to provide lots of time for play and movement surrounding reading

–     to value and make time for daily independent reading, encouraging choice and supporting boys as they learn to choose books that match their interests

–     to honor the social aspect of reading by providing time for meaningful talk about books, poems, and stories.

Here are some of the wise words from Pam that caused us to ponder, connect with a particular student or remind us of the important work we do:  
“There should be little difference between reading for school and reading for fun: we want boys to approach all their books with curiosity and excitement.”
”Let’s align reading more with play than work. Let’s think of it more as a joy, a distinct pleasure of being human, than as a task. Let boys read, and let them read what they like.”

”Reading can feel as risky as walking a tightrope even if it doesn’t look nearly as daring.”

”Giving boys books at a variety of levels helps them to build a sturdy foundation so they feel safe in trying more challenging ones. It is also essential to value each book in and of itself, not just as a stepping stone to more challenging ones.”

”My mission is to help all children achieve not only functional literacy but transformational literacy. The kind of literacy that will allow them to learn something new every day, connect to all people everywhere, and to invent new ideas that could change the world.—And in this process, to learn, through reading, how to be the kind of person they want to become.”

We highly recommend Pam Allyn’s Best Books for Boys.  Read it, enjoy it, and keep it close on your bookshelf as a reminder of how important it is to reach our boys and as a reference as you strive to help every boy become a reader.

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