Let's Hear It For The Boys

Tuesday, January 21, 2014
brought to you by Lori

"Goodnight moon. Goodnight room. Goodnight light and the red balloon."

Words to live by in my household. When Ava was a baby, we would read it every night. Now that Levi is 18 months old, he is finally beginning to repeat after me in a high-pitched voice when we say goodnight to the "young mouse." He will also put his finger to his mouth when the old lady whispers "hush." He will turn the book over at the end and point to the picture of what we call the "night-night bunny." 

Levi and a bedtime favorite

But reading to him has been a battle. Even still, sometimes getting him to sit still long enough to even say goodnight to the "three little bears sitting on chairs" is quite a feat. And sometimes we don't even say the words. Sometimes we just turn pages and point and talk about the pictures because that's what he wants to do. I'm ok with this. He's not my daughter, and he is very much all boy.

At 10 months old, Ava innately memorized the under-side of each and every flap in our series of 4 Beatrix Potter lift-a-flap board books. Levi does not memorize the words. Instead, he becomes entirely focused on the flap itself, picking at the corners until it opens, pulling from the wrong side until it tears. Those books made it through Ava's infant and toddler years without so much as a scratch. Levi has had them for 18 months, and some of the flaps are simply hanging on for dear life. The boy has destroyed entire books. But I don't get too upset about it. My thought is that while we're "reading" together and he's tearing at flaps or pulling pages, he's also learning how to orient a book. He's learning that print moves from left to right, he's learning how to turn the pages, and he's being exposed to lots and lots of print. He's interacting with the text in an all boy kind of way!

So this gets my teacher brain thinking that I'm going to have two very different readers on my hands. How do I instill a love of reading in a child whose interests lie elsewhere? Talk about worlds colliding! This is a teacher/mom issue! The answer at my house is to continue reading to him and finding ways to make reading fun.

But what about the boys who enter our classrooms who have never been able to identify with a text? William Brozo's book, To Be a Boy, To Be a Reader speaks directly to the issue of connecting adolescent boys to texts that they can identify with on a positive level. After all, it's every mom's wish to grow her son into a man of integrity. Why not provide examples of good, upstanding men in print?

Brozo builds an argument that suggests connecting boys to literature with positive male archetypes will foster a love of reading while unlocking and encouraging that imagination that is distinctly all boy. Brozo has a big, systematic approach for teaching these archetypes, but quite frankly, I'm just not there. But, I find his descriptions of the archetypes and his accompanying bibliography SO helpful for recommending books to my boys. I LOVE a good bibliography. Nerd alert. I've listed some of the archetypes--the ones I like best--and one suggested piece of literature for each below. If you want access to the whole bibliography, this is where I have to tell you to buy the book [or email me and I'll look up an archetype for you. I highly doubt William Brozo is reading my blog post.]

  • The Pilgrim--A searcher and wanderer filled with the desire to improve his life. (Pacific Crossing. Gary Soto. 1992)
  • The Patriarch--Represents compassion, care, and sacrifice. Interestingly enough, Brozo believes The Patriarch has been tarnished by pop culture and is all the more reason for boys to read stories glorifying the archetype. (Shadow Boxer. Chris Lynch. 1992).
  • The King--Embodies male greatness and is able to accompany people to places that they do not wish to go, but must. The king is a lesson in wise decision-making. (Last Days of Summer. Steve Kluger. 1999).
  • The Warrior--Violent males are not warriors. Warriors are not strong in contrast to a subordinate female. Instead warriors are brave, edifying, and honorable. They should be contrasted with notions of greed and selfishness. (Nelson Mandela: Voice of Freedom. Hughes. 2000).
  • The Magician--Brozo's description of this one gets a little weird for me, but essentially, the magician is intuitive and clever and refuses to take the world at face value. (Striking Out. Will Weaver. 1993)
  • The Wildman--Challenges the status quo and questions his own complacency and the complacency of others. Read the suggested title with caution. Although it is a personal favorite on my own bookshelf, I can understand how others interpret the true story with a negative spin. (Into the Wild. Jon Krakauer. 1996).
There are 4 more archetypes to read about and explore, but these are the ones that I find most interesting. Like I said, Brozo has a whole strategy and rationale in place for systematically teaching each archetype, but I find it useful simply to think about our boys who are not at all like our girls. They are all boy, and we need to help connect them to books that celebrate that. I hope you'll check out the book! The bibliography alone is a gold mine! 

P.S. You are very welcome for the picture of my son. He's cute. Your day just got better!

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