Friday, January 16, 2009

Books for boys

Today, last period, I sat down with William and asked him a question I hardly ever get to ask my students in our stressful world of labels and checklists: "What do you like?" I wrote his answers on a post-it: motorcycles, bikes, cool cars, airplanes, skateboards, scooters and the New York Mets (especially Carlos Beltran).

"Wow," I said as I surveyed the list, "you really like things that go!"

I wanted to encourage William to ask a grown-up at home to bring him to the public library and sign him up for a library card. I told him -- in a sort of "keep this on the DL" kind of way -- that even though in school we tell him he can only choose books from his "just right" level (which has now flown all the way up to I!), at the public library he can take out any books he wants, and it's free! William frequently says things like, "I want to read M books," so I suggested that he ask a grown-up at home to read a chapter book with him.

But William seemed dubious. He said something about how his mom thinks that the library will ask you to sign something (I might try to get in touch with Mom and see what I can do). I told him that I would go to my own library and see if I could find some books about motorcycles, bikes, cool cars, airplanes, skateboards, scooters and the New York Mets (especially Carlos Beltran).

When I got to the library, though, I was really disheartened. The library has plenty of books about motorcycles, bikes, cool cars, airplanes, skateboards and scooters (not so many about the New York Mets), but I could tell at first glance they were far above William's reading level. And he's not my only friend in this predicament -- I happen to have other male students who, because they've already been held back at some point, are in second grade but going on nine or ten years old and still reading at a mid-first grade level. They are boys who want to read chapter books, M books, books about motorcycles, bikes, cool cars, airplanes, skateboards, scooters and the New York Mets (especially Carlos Beltran). But instead we make them read these boring books that are, frankly, total snoozefests! I was trying to help one of my frustrated I readers shop for books the other day and I was completely horrified at the selection in his classroom library -- I wouldn't want to read any of those books either!

After William and I talked about what he liked, we talked about one of his new I books, Small Pig by Arnold Lobel. It's about a pig who's looking for some good, soft mud. I could tell William was enjoying it. Pig, mud, what's not to like? That got me thinking that it's not reading that William dislikes; it's reading books like Biscuit. (No offense to Biscuit, but when you're a nine-year-old boy? You're kind of over him.)

Why, why, why aren't there more low-level high-interest books for struggling readers? Books about motorcycles, bikes, cool cars, airplanes, skateboards, scooters and the New York Mets (especially Carlos Beltran)? The public library actually had Dick and Jane books in the Easy Reader section. Dick and Jane! Are there low-level high-interest books out there that I don't know about? If so, please please let me know!


joycemocha said...

When I get back to school I'll post a link to a Really Cool catalog our district's Literacy Specialist turned me on to. You think you have it bad in elementary--try finding appropriate stuff for middle school kids reading at 3rd grade levels or lower! It's a real challenge. If I could write at that level, I would. Many of these kids can acquire content class information by listening, so I try to write accommodations which have them following books on tape/CD, have the relevant passages read to them, etc, etc. But it would be really, really nice to have middle-school level books written at low reading levels.

One thing which really does tick me off is even the Remedia stuff for high-interest/low level readers is too simplistic for older kids, and has graphics/topics that are way too young for my low middle school readers. Lingua Systems has some older material that I'm pulling out (from the 80s!) that are short articles with quizzes. OTOH, I've found some decent picture books on the Scholastic Book Fairs that I use for classes--but most of that good stuff is all nonfiction (sigh).

I've literally resorted to retyping appropriate material that had inappropriate (for age) graphics just so the kids wouldn't see it and think it was for little kids only. It's a challenge.

Anonymous said...

My youngest son was William until the middle of last year (2nd grade), and I agree, there is not that much out there for boys. One suggestion: the Fly Guy books.

Anonymous said...

Liz -- Fly Guy is one of the books I did manage to pick up at the public library! I was impressed by the first one; I'll have to get my hands on the rest.

Nacho Lover said...

that sounds so frustrating, for you and William! he is so lucky that you're helping him find quality, interesting books--i bet that will also help inspire him to keep reading. Can he read any Christopher whatshisname sports books? I wish I knew more books from that level to help. Maybe you guys should organize a trip to the bookstore together, to check out the possibilities!

Anonymous said...

Hi -- I would like to see the link for the Really Cool Catalog that was mentioned by joycemocha in January. I am looking for good books for a boy who loves nature but is reading at a low level. I'll check back!

Anonymous said...

Take a look at Jon Scieszka's website:
As a teacher of special ed. in NYC, I know what you're going through. We do need more high interest/low level books.

fantasiabooks said...

Its really true miss brave that there are hardly any books for boys at the age of 4 to 10..I am happy that you are trying to help William..keep up the good work..

Ms. Yingling said...

There are a fair number of high/low books from Capstone and other specialty nonfiction presses; the problem is that they are really expensive for short books. ($22 or so). I hope you are having more luck finding things!

Daisy said...

I'm running the same kind of search right now: a search for high interest, low reading level books. I recently posted about my fourth grade students, 7 of whom read at a first grade level. I'm looking for grant money and good books. The sites your commenters mentioned (Max's books, the Capstone series, and more) are looking good.

I'd love to keep in touch!

-Daisy, fourth grade teacher, blogging at Compost Happens

Unknown said...

Hi! I just discovered all of these sites, and I myself am a teacher always in search of more Hi/Low books. The last resource on this list seemed the most helpful to the 1st grade level books, nonfiction for 7-14 year olds... and even up to Seniors. Best to your search!

School On Wheels: Reading

HIP books: Reading

Orca Soundings: Reading

High Noon Books: Hi/Lo 1st grade level for elementary – 12th grade.