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November 17, 2014 How to Create Excitement for Reluctant Readers By Brian Smith
Grades 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    Reluctant readers exist. I have always thought of reluctant readers as students who have some reading skills but don't enjoy reading and therefore don't read for pleasure. These readers then become part of the Matthew Effects phenomenon, which is the rich get richer while the poor get poorer. Eager readers become better readers and the reluctant readers fall farther behind. While researching reluctant readers, it became clear that a large majority of them are boys. Having been a boy many, many . . . many years ago, I wanted to do something to try to change this.

    To tackle the number of male reluctant readers in my area, I started an All Boys' Book Club. I chose to limit my book club members to third graders because of the amount of testing that this grade level in my state must endure is absolutely ridiculous (I am saying this as a teacher, and as the parent of a third grader last year), and all of these assessments can create a larger number of students in the reluctant reader category. You could create a book club for any grade level or reading level. It could include any number of students and any mixture of abilities. I will lay out my All Boys' Book Club for you in the hope that you will be inspired to reach out to the reluctant readers in your area.

    Excitement About BooksInitially, I sent home a letter explaining the club to all the third grade boys in the district. I attached an application to the letter. Eighteen boys were selected. There is a mixture of students who are reading above grade level, on grade level, and below grade level. Each student was given the book of the month to read and a packet of questions to answer before our first meeting. Seventeen boys showed up for our book club — quite impressive for that many boys to give up three hours one Saturday a month.

    This interview that I did on Good Day Carolinas explains my All Boys' Book Club more in-depth.

    I have six months of books planned for the All Boys' Book Club, and I already have activities lined up for many of the months. I ordered all the books from Scholastic Book Clubs because I haven't found another place that offers more value for the money. Each month before our book club meets, the boys read the book and answer questions I have prepared in advance.

    I Survived Pompeii CoverMonth One

    We discussed I Survived the Destruction of Pompeii, AD 79 by Lauren Tarshis. We then read an article about the "Mole People" in New York City's subway system, which I introduced because of a real-life character in the article who closely resembled a fictional character in the book.

    Extreme Volcanoes KitThe boys immediately picked up on the two characters' similarities. It was amazing to see their excitement when they made this connection between nonfiction text and the historical fiction text that they had read. We then used the Extreme Volcanoes kits to learn about volcanic rock and then built different types of volcanoes. We first used Play-Doh and mini Coca-Cola bottles. Then we used the Extreme Volcanoes kits together with our math skills to make them erupt. We also had a ton of volcano inspired snacks. Before they left, the boys all got a copy of our next book and they weren't even out of the building before they were reading.

    Team Marcus

    Team Cyclops Team Tata

    This video will give you a quick idea about what we did during our book club for I Survived the Destruction of Pompeii, AD 79.

    Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul Cover

    Month Two

    In December we will discuss The Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul by Jeff Kinney, which centers around the family's travels in their minivan and special troubles they have in that vehicle. We will pair this book with some nonfiction reading about different types of cars. The boys will each study a particular car and then think about how the Wimpy Kid family's experiences would have been different if they had taken that car (whichever one the boy studied) on the trip. It's really an activity to think about how one detail, in this case the minivan, can effect the whole story. Snacks will be individualized brown paper bags like the mom makes for the characters in the book. Finally, all boys will be asked to wear light colors and we will take black tape to turn them into stick figures and in their small groups they will film a portion of the book.

    Stick Figure Costume Wimpy Kid: Long Haul Display

     

    The Magic Shop: The Vanishing Coin Cover

    Month Three

    In January we will discuss The Magic Shop: The Vanishing Coin by Kate Egan and magician Mike Lane. Our nonfiction text will be about famous magicians. I am hoping to have a magician come and teach the boys a magic trick or two. As a back-up plan, I know a few simple tricks and luckily, one of them revolves around a disappearing coin. The snacks that month will include items that can be cut in half, as well as chocolate coins.

     

    Frindle Cover

    Month Four

    I can't wait to discuss Frindle by Andrew Clements. We will be pairing this book with comics as we explore the idea of heroes and villains and how they depend on each other. This will take us back to the book as we dissect whether Mrs. Granger was a villain or a hero. My plan for this month is to have all sorts of materials available so that students can design the ultimate pen. Then they can present their ideas to a panel of teachers in an environment that resembles the television program Shark Tank.

     

    What Was the March on Washington? Cover

    Month Five

    In March we will be discussing What Was the March on Washington? by Kathleen Krull. This way they will be reading it during February, Black History Month. We will pair this with nonfiction text about other events that occurred during the civil rights movement. For our activity, each team will be given materials so that they can build the Edmund Pettus Bridge where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s march from Selma to Montgomery began.

     

    I Survived Titanic

    Month Six

    For the final month of the All Boys' Book Club, we will discuss I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic, 1912, also by Lauren Tarshis, and pair it with text about White Star Line (the shipbuilders of the Titanic). Our activity will be to use Minecraft to build a ship. We will also learn how to chart a nautical course from one location to another. For our snack this month, I have my fingers crossed that I can find a white tablecloth and offer up a fancy presentation of our snack so that the boys can get a feel for the grandeur of the meals on the Titanic.

     

    Justin Reading Before he's out the door Christian waiting for his ride

    The final phase of my All Boys' Book Club involves you! Let's take this idea and share. Have your students read the books and join the conversation on Twitter by tagging me (@dad2ella) and using the hashtag #boybookclub. Do you have a better idea for an activity for one of the books I've chosen to use? Am I missing an obvious snack choice for one of the reading selections? If so, tweet me and let me know!

    Let's connect on Twitter and Pinterest.

    Special thanks to my friend Joanna Drusin for sharing her experiences while she does her part to erase the "reluctant reader" from education.

    I can't wait to see you next week.

    Reluctant readers exist. I have always thought of reluctant readers as students who have some reading skills but don't enjoy reading and therefore don't read for pleasure. These readers then become part of the Matthew Effects phenomenon, which is the rich get richer while the poor get poorer. Eager readers become better readers and the reluctant readers fall farther behind. While researching reluctant readers, it became clear that a large majority of them are boys. Having been a boy many, many . . . many years ago, I wanted to do something to try to change this.

    To tackle the number of male reluctant readers in my area, I started an All Boys' Book Club. I chose to limit my book club members to third graders because of the amount of testing that this grade level in my state must endure is absolutely ridiculous (I am saying this as a teacher, and as the parent of a third grader last year), and all of these assessments can create a larger number of students in the reluctant reader category. You could create a book club for any grade level or reading level. It could include any number of students and any mixture of abilities. I will lay out my All Boys' Book Club for you in the hope that you will be inspired to reach out to the reluctant readers in your area.

    Excitement About BooksInitially, I sent home a letter explaining the club to all the third grade boys in the district. I attached an application to the letter. Eighteen boys were selected. There is a mixture of students who are reading above grade level, on grade level, and below grade level. Each student was given the book of the month to read and a packet of questions to answer before our first meeting. Seventeen boys showed up for our book club — quite impressive for that many boys to give up three hours one Saturday a month.

    This interview that I did on Good Day Carolinas explains my All Boys' Book Club more in-depth.

    I have six months of books planned for the All Boys' Book Club, and I already have activities lined up for many of the months. I ordered all the books from Scholastic Book Clubs because I haven't found another place that offers more value for the money. Each month before our book club meets, the boys read the book and answer questions I have prepared in advance.

    I Survived Pompeii CoverMonth One

    We discussed I Survived the Destruction of Pompeii, AD 79 by Lauren Tarshis. We then read an article about the "Mole People" in New York City's subway system, which I introduced because of a real-life character in the article who closely resembled a fictional character in the book.

    Extreme Volcanoes KitThe boys immediately picked up on the two characters' similarities. It was amazing to see their excitement when they made this connection between nonfiction text and the historical fiction text that they had read. We then used the Extreme Volcanoes kits to learn about volcanic rock and then built different types of volcanoes. We first used Play-Doh and mini Coca-Cola bottles. Then we used the Extreme Volcanoes kits together with our math skills to make them erupt. We also had a ton of volcano inspired snacks. Before they left, the boys all got a copy of our next book and they weren't even out of the building before they were reading.

    Team Marcus

    Team Cyclops Team Tata

    This video will give you a quick idea about what we did during our book club for I Survived the Destruction of Pompeii, AD 79.

    Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul Cover

    Month Two

    In December we will discuss The Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul by Jeff Kinney, which centers around the family's travels in their minivan and special troubles they have in that vehicle. We will pair this book with some nonfiction reading about different types of cars. The boys will each study a particular car and then think about how the Wimpy Kid family's experiences would have been different if they had taken that car (whichever one the boy studied) on the trip. It's really an activity to think about how one detail, in this case the minivan, can effect the whole story. Snacks will be individualized brown paper bags like the mom makes for the characters in the book. Finally, all boys will be asked to wear light colors and we will take black tape to turn them into stick figures and in their small groups they will film a portion of the book.

    Stick Figure Costume Wimpy Kid: Long Haul Display

     

    The Magic Shop: The Vanishing Coin Cover

    Month Three

    In January we will discuss The Magic Shop: The Vanishing Coin by Kate Egan and magician Mike Lane. Our nonfiction text will be about famous magicians. I am hoping to have a magician come and teach the boys a magic trick or two. As a back-up plan, I know a few simple tricks and luckily, one of them revolves around a disappearing coin. The snacks that month will include items that can be cut in half, as well as chocolate coins.

     

    Frindle Cover

    Month Four

    I can't wait to discuss Frindle by Andrew Clements. We will be pairing this book with comics as we explore the idea of heroes and villains and how they depend on each other. This will take us back to the book as we dissect whether Mrs. Granger was a villain or a hero. My plan for this month is to have all sorts of materials available so that students can design the ultimate pen. Then they can present their ideas to a panel of teachers in an environment that resembles the television program Shark Tank.

     

    What Was the March on Washington? Cover

    Month Five

    In March we will be discussing What Was the March on Washington? by Kathleen Krull. This way they will be reading it during February, Black History Month. We will pair this with nonfiction text about other events that occurred during the civil rights movement. For our activity, each team will be given materials so that they can build the Edmund Pettus Bridge where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s march from Selma to Montgomery began.

     

    I Survived Titanic

    Month Six

    For the final month of the All Boys' Book Club, we will discuss I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic, 1912, also by Lauren Tarshis, and pair it with text about White Star Line (the shipbuilders of the Titanic). Our activity will be to use Minecraft to build a ship. We will also learn how to chart a nautical course from one location to another. For our snack this month, I have my fingers crossed that I can find a white tablecloth and offer up a fancy presentation of our snack so that the boys can get a feel for the grandeur of the meals on the Titanic.

     

    Justin Reading Before he's out the door Christian waiting for his ride

    The final phase of my All Boys' Book Club involves you! Let's take this idea and share. Have your students read the books and join the conversation on Twitter by tagging me (@dad2ella) and using the hashtag #boybookclub. Do you have a better idea for an activity for one of the books I've chosen to use? Am I missing an obvious snack choice for one of the reading selections? If so, tweet me and let me know!

    Let's connect on Twitter and Pinterest.

    Special thanks to my friend Joanna Drusin for sharing her experiences while she does her part to erase the "reluctant reader" from education.

    I can't wait to see you next week.

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