Materials for Children and Teens with Disabilities

This blog is intended as a means to update and expand on the Linda Lucas Walling Collection of Materials for and about Children and Teens with Different Abilities:

Monday, September 03, 2012

Books, Boys, and Reading: A Real Challenge

Books, Boys, and Reading: A Real Challenge/Karen Macpherson

The following, posted on alsc-l, is not specific to boys with disabilities, but I think those who work with boys will find it useful. LLW (posted with permission)

Karen MacPherson

Hi Jim 
Do you know of GuysRead, the organization created by Jon Scieszka, to promote reading among boys? That's definitely a great resource - In fact, Scieszka was chosen the first National Ambassador for Young People's Literature (a post created by the Library of Congress's Center for the Book and the Children's Book Council) and his main focus during his two-year term (which just ended last week) was on getting reluctant readers - especially boys - into books. Scieszka really pushes the idea that boys do read and will read, but they may not be so interested in the fiction books that many of their parents, teachers and librarians think they should be reading. For more info on Scieszka's ideas, check out his website,

At our library, our biggest success in getting boys to read has been based on two things:

1. having materials they want to read and
2. convincing parents that it's OK for kids to read things they enjoy in their free time

For 1), we have really beefed up our graphic novel collection, which includes comics (comic strip collections like Calvin & Hobbes and Garfield), manga (Japanese comics), and superhero comics, among others. These books are INCREDIBLY popular among all kids, but especially boys. We find that boys also love what we call "hybrid" books, which are a mix of text and illustrations. Hybrid books include "The Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series, "The Magic Schoolbus" series, the "Captain Underpants" and "Ricky Ricotta" series and the "Geronimo Stilton" series. Boys even love the most literate hybrid we have, "The Invention of Hugo Cabret."

In addition, we make sure boys know about our non-fiction collection, which includes books about subjects they're interested in, from sports to dinosaurs to trains to cooking (yes, we have boys who love to cook!). And we ensure that parents know about these books, since parents often seem to gravitate to picture books or novels, whether or not their child is interested in reading fiction. We make a big deal to parents about the idea that these non-fiction books are "real" reading materials and they count as reading!

In addition, we've increased our magazine collection to include magazines that boys particularly like, including Sports Illustrated for Kids, ESPN, MAD magazine, various car magazines (which actually are aimed at adults, but which are totally fine for kids), etc.

Finally, we also promote the use of audio books as another way of reading that really "hooks" some kids.

As for 2) - we really do try to persuade parents that reading takes many forms. Kids don't have to love the "Little House" books or "Harriet the Spy" to be considered readers. There are many kinds of books and there are books for every kind of reader!

Finally, I used to be a newspaper reporter before switching careers to become a children's librarian. In my newspaper days, I sometimes wrote about kids and reading, and in one article focused specifically on boys and reading. Here's a link to that article: 

Hope this helps. Let me know how the workshop goes, and please share any good ideas that you find!

Karen MacPherson
Children's/Teen Librarian, Takoma Park Maryland Library
Children's Book Reviewer, Scripps Howard News Service