Book Review: Pam Allyn’s Best Books for Boys

Best Books for Boys: How to Engage Boys in Reading in Ways that Will Change Their Lives by Pam Allyn 

Published by Scholastic Teaching Resources (2011)

176 pages

ISBN: 978-0545204552

When I received an email asking if I would be interested in reviewing Best Book for Boys, the classroom teacher/librarian in me jumped at the opportunity to read something so relevant to literacy instruction today.  Those who have spent time in the classroom can attest to the fact that young, male readers often represent a struggling population.  Recent studies suggest that elementary and middle school boys express more negative attitudes towards literacy and independent reading than their female peers.  This, in turn, manifests itself in lower test scores, higher drop-out rates, and an overall higher illiteracy rate among young adult males.  Why? Certainly not because our young males are less intelligent, or less capable of grasping new skills.  Rather, classroom teachers, administrators, and parents, need to recognize that our young boys possess unique literacy needs, needs not always being met in the classroom.

Enter Pam Allyn, and Best Books for Boys.

The Breakdown:

After a brief introduction, this resource breaks down into the three main parts.  The first focuses on the need for identifying books for boys.  Allyn discusses various studies and outcomes which suggest that the literacy needs of young males are not being met in today’s curriculum and literacy instruction.  Understanding these specific needs will increase literacy success among boys.

The second part, a Q & A, identifies 24 common questions.  These topics include determining the specific needs of male readers, creating a positive reading climate, selecting appropriate material, and meeting the needs of all students in a classroom environment.

While the first two components provide valuable information, it is the third component, “Pam Allyn’s Best Picks for Boys: A Thoughtfully Annotated List”, that makes this resource so invaluable for classroom teachers, librarians, and parents.  Allyn identifies 19 specific genres, from adventure, to the arts, to poetry, to mathematics.  Each genre offers specific titles, complete with brief summaries.  Each title is also labeled according to the reading level, and some even include “talking points” to help generate discussion amongst readers.  Also included are websites and magazines specifically geared towards boys, and the topic of male readers

The Verdict:

Allyn has compiled a resource I’d recommend to any classroom teacher or parent of a young male reader.  Her writing style is clear and informal, avoiding the textbook-type nature of some professional resources.  The annotated list takes much of the leg-work out of selecting materials for male readers.  Let’s face it, children’s literature is a huge market, and identifying quality, age-appropriate, interesting titles can be daunting. A resource such as Books for Boys, means that busy classroom teachers can support the literacy needs of young male readers in their classroom through the selection and implementation of materials, while still having the time to focus on the most important part of education: the students themselves.

Disclosure: I received an advanced copy of this title for review.  I receive no monetary compensation for this review, or any of the links therein.  All opinions are my own.

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