Monday, November 17, 2008

This Month's Big Question (November - December)

What CHALLENGES are faced in teaching language arts to the modern student?

All eligible responders will be entered in a monthly drawing to recieve a collection of the top 25 novels for middle school or high school students.

Click below to respond. Then please create a blogger account and respond with your name, school, and city.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Boys & Reading

As the father of a four year-old boy and a former 7th grade language arts teacher, I have become concerned about an alarming trend that has developed regarding our children’s reading abilities.

The U.S. Department of Education reading tests for the last 30 years show boys scoring worse than girls in every age group, every year:
• Eighth grade boys are 50 percent more likely to be held back than girls.
• Two-thirds of Special Education Students in high school are boys.
• Overall college enrollment is higher for girls than boys.


Jon Scieszka, author of children’s books such as The Stinky Cheese Man and the Time Warp Trio series, believes that boys are slower to develop than girls biologically and therefore often have early struggles with reading and writing skills. On his website, he also says that the male way of learning, which tends to be action oriented and competitive, works against boys in many classrooms.

“Boys like to read for a purpose, to find out how to do things, like how to build a dirt bike or skateboard. That’s just not encouraged enough,” Scieszka says. “Nonfiction reading is reading. Magazines, newspapers, websites, biographies, science books, comic books, graphic novels are all reading material, he adds.

• Boys generally take longer than girls to develop comparable literacy skills. What is considered a grade level appropriate reading skill for a girl cannot always be considered the same for a boy.

• Boys generally need more instructional time than girls do. In the larger, time limited classes of middle and high school teachers are unable to give boys as much one-on-one time. Therefore, they do not make as much progress in reading as girls do.

• Boys of all ages generally read less than girls.

• Middle school aged boys indicate that they believe reading is much harder than it was in elementary school.

• Boys claim reading becomes less enjoyable as they become older.

• Many adolescent boys fail to see real life applications in what they read. Literature read in Language Arts classes tells “stories” rather than providing useful information. Some boys stop reading because they think there is no practical value in reading.

• As they reach adolescence more and more boys stop considering themselves readers. Research on the reading attitudes of middle school boys shows that many consider themselves “non-readers”.

• Reading is sometimes stereotyped as a “feminine” activity. When boys reach adolescence their gender identification becomes more important. If they believe reading is not a masculine activity, they will abandon it in order to demonstrate their masculinity.

The following provides some links to recent news coverage on the topic of boys and reading:


Copyright © 2008 Pearson Education, Inc. or its affiliate(s). All rights reserved. 081283 P08-10-31G

Monday, November 10, 2008


Here’s a recommended reading list for boys taken from the Family Education Network Parents and teachers should review the books to make sure they are age appropriate.

Night Driving, by John Coy
As father and son drive into the night, they watch the sunset, talk
about baseball, sing cowboy songs, and even change a flat tire before
pitching camp at daybreak.

The Stories Julian Tells, by Ann Cameron
Julian, that quick fibber and wishful thinker, is great at telling stories. He
can make people – especially his younger brother, Huey – believe just
about anything. But some stories can get you into a pack of trouble,
and that’s exactly where Julian and Huey find themselves all too often.

The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, by Jon Scieszka
Wonderfully quirky, this book breathes new life into traditional children’s
stories. In these irreverent variations on well-known themes, the ugly
duckling grows up to be an ugly duck, and the princess who kisses the
frog wins only a mouthful of amphibian slime!

The Stupids Step Out, by Harry Allard
The Stupid family and their dog Kitty have a fun-filled day doing
ridiculous things.

The Adventures of Captain Underpants, by Dav Pilkey
When George and Harold hypnotize their principal into thinking he’s
the superhero Captain Underpants, he leads them to the lair of the
nefarious Dr. Diaper, where they must defeat his evil robot henchmen.

Holes, by Louis Sachar
As further evidence of his family’s bad fortune (which started with
a curse on a distant relative), Stanley Yelnats is sent to a hellish
correctional camp in the Texas desert where he finds his first real friend,
a treasure, and a new sense of himself.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J. K. Rowling
Rescued from the outrageous neglect of his aunt and uncle, a young
boy with a great destiny proves his worth while attending Hogwarts
School for Wizards and Witches.

My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George
A young boy relates his adventures during the year he spends
living alone in the Catskill Mountains, including his struggle for
survival, his dependence on nature, his animal friends, and his ultimate
realization that he needs human companionship.

There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom, by Louis Sachar
An unmanageable, but lovable, 11-year-old misfit learns to believe in
himself when he gets to know the new school counselor, who is a sort
of misfit, too.

Encyclopedia Brown, by Donald J. Sobol
Whenever ten-year-old Leroy “Encyclopedia” Brown’s father, the Chief
of Police of Idaville, had a difficult case, Encyclopedia always managed
to solve it at the dinner table. So, he decided to open his own detective

James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl
For young James Henry Trotter, life with the exceedingly nasty Aunt
Sponge and Aunt Spiker is pure misery. James dreams of a better life,
but he’s totally unprepared for the wild adventures ahead when he
drops the magic crystals he receives from a strange old man. Before
long, James is off on a weird, wonderful journey inside a giant peach
with a bizarre group of companions!

Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen
After a plane crash, 13-year-old Brian spends 54 days in the wilderness,
learning to survive with only the aid of a hatchet given him by his
mother – and learning to survive his parents’ divorce.

Crash, by Jerry Spinelli
Seventh-grader John “Crash” Coogan has
always been comfortable with his tough,
aggressive behavior, until his relationship
with an unusual Quaker boy and his
grandfather’s stroke make him consider
the meaning of friendship and the
importance of family.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


With all means of a warm and friendly greeting, I take pleasure in welcoming all visitors –educators, colleagues, family, and friends – to my new web log. As a representative of Pearson Education I am eager to participate in educational discussions.

This page has been launched with the objective of providing information and discussions in arenas concerning educational needs, professional development, and trends in learning with a focus on reading instruction.

Furthermore, the site will offer information about product availability, new educational technologies, universal access strategies, and lesson planning. I thank you in advance for your valuable contributions to this post.

Kirk Van Wagoner