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Topic: Low-brow, adventure or even gross-out books' value

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Subject: Low-brow, adventure or even gross-out books' value
Date Posted: 3/30/2010 1:31 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
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Nicholas Kristorf's column, in today's newspaper, was about the lagging performance of boys in reading in the U. S..  One suggested remedy was to encourage "low-brow, adventure or even gross-out books" that appeal to boys.  Okay, as a kind of pragmatist (whatever works, deserves consideration), I suppose I could buy into that, but  I'm a little dubious about what "gross-out" books might be, though-----do they contain rudenesses of various sorts, and lots of repugnant substances that boys seem to like talking about, such as slime, and boogers, and "great green gobs of greasy grimy gopher guts" ?  Oh well . . . .maybe I will go to the Website, guysread.com,  and check out the lists there of "ghosts", "boxers, wrestlers, ultimate fighters" and books with "at least one explosion", etc. 

Date Posted: 3/30/2010 9:09 PM ET
Member Since: 8/20/2006
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I have a ten year old son so I do know about "gross out" books  :-)

The Captain Underpants series would be a good example. It has villains named The Bionic Booger Boy, Wedgie Woman (I kid you not) and Professor Pippy Pee Pee Poopy Pants. Lots of potty humor.

Luckily my son read one, laughed a little, and moved on to other books.

Maybe he is an anomaly but he reads a varied selection of books. He is currently reading the Harry Potter series, has read all of E.B. White's books, and as a family we are reading our way through the Little House on the Prairie series. His favorite book is Black Ships Before Troy by Sutcliffe. We are involved in an annual local Battle of the Books competition which has introduced the kids to many excellent authors that they continue to read. I coach Battle of the Books and have had many boys on my teams. They seem to gravitate towards the adventure and historical fiction books.

Date Posted: 4/16/2010 7:12 PM ET
Member Since: 6/5/2007
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Diary of a Wimpy Kid probably fits here too.

I agree, anything that gets kids reading (especially boys) is a good thing.

Date Posted: 4/18/2010 1:36 PM ET
Member Since: 3/27/2009
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Whatever gets these fellas reading, I say. They need some lite escapism material. They really do!

If you've been working in the elementary schools, you'll see that the stories in the reading anthologies are so focused on being culturally aware that educators have sucked all interest out of reading for these kids. Boys are the biggest victims.

I'll explain:

I understand the need for cultural awareness and diversity. I agree that American children should no longer be subjected to fish white, middle-class Dick and Jane and their apron wearing, stay-at-home-mother and weekend lawn mower pushing, business man father. I get that. We need to get away from Eurocentrism. It's about time!

On the other hand, the pendulum has swung waaay to the other side. Now we have stories about like Amelia's Road which is about Amelia the Mexican migrant worker child who longs for a permanant home and some recognition in school. In third grade we read about African Adinkra cloths and it's symbolic value, then we read about Jewish hoopas in another story (sorry, I forgot the name of these stories). If we read and perform plays, you bet it's going to be about Chinese New Year and the Lion Dance or an African folk tale. And so it goes nonstop. Through literature, these little kids travel around the world sampling bits and pieces of other cultures around the world.

In the fourth grade classroom, the stories focus nonstop on history and  immigration past and present and various cultures. I can only imagine how incredibly dull this must be to boys. 

Some of the history topics are way too deep for my own comfort level. This year I had to read with the kids a book on Harriet Tubman which goes in depth about lynching and whippings complete with pictures. Try explaining this to a group of 9 yr olds in which there is but one black child. It was hard.

Another book that I flat out refused to read and discuss was about Rosa Parks. It had a big blazing picture of the white-hooded KKK marching off to do some evil or another and I just shuddered at the thought of trying to explain the mind-set of an evil group like the Ku Klux Klan to young children. I just said no and chose another more age appropriate book.

So these are the types of stories that 9 yr olds are reading in school. Fantasy and fun is not in the curriculum which is a shame. These kids still have imaginations but it's not really nurtured anymore.

I could go on and on about how there is NO ART at the school in which I work. NONE. The art  and music teacher was let go years ago. It's a shame.

So in light of what I've seen in the children's readers, I say bring on Captain Underpants and the gross out books. They need some laughs and after explaining slavery and whippings and lynching to a group of 10 4th graders,  I need a drink. 



Last Edited on: 4/18/10 1:45 PM ET - Total times edited: 3
Date Posted: 4/18/2010 1:52 PM ET
Member Since: 3/27/2009
Posts: 25,000
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Oh well . . . .maybe I will go to the Website, guysread.com,  and check out the lists there of "ghosts", "boxers, wrestlers, ultimate fighters" and books with "at least one explosion", etc. 

 

Bonnie, I checked it out. What a great resource!

I live with boys and men and yes, they need at least one explosion. They need to explore "gross" things. They need base humor. To not fart expressively at least once is to not have lived well.

Date Posted: 4/18/2010 6:00 PM ET
Member Since: 8/20/2006
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  So these are the types of stories that 9 yr olds are reading in school. Fantasy and fun is not in the curriculum which is a shame. These kids still have imaginations but it's not really nurtured anymore.

Maybe it is a regional thing  . . . my 8 yr old has had both fantasy and fun in her curriculum this year along with history, etc. Some of the books they have read recently are Henry Reed's Journal, Williwaw (great book), and The Chocolate Touch.

I have found that kids don't internalize like I do. When we read books about the Holocaust I am near tears and the kids take it in stride. I cried when I read A Family Apart by Joan Lowery Nixon and my daughter and her friends just thought it was sad (and that I was a weepy mother). A Family Apart is about the Orphan Trains in the early 1900's and in the book a mother had to send all six of her children west on the Orphan Train because she could not take care of them (her husband had died and the oldest son started getting in trouble with the law and employment options for women were very limited). A tearjerker for a mother but not for a kid.

Date Posted: 4/19/2010 1:01 AM ET
Member Since: 3/27/2009
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 my 8 yr old has had both fantasy and fun in her curriculum

 

She's very lucky. Fantasy and fun are in our libraries, thank God, but not in the classroom reading anthologies. At least not in grades 3 and up.