The Ongoing Story of Facts
I did my second teacher night tonight, and it went very well. This group of teachers asked me to speak about boys and reading, and I told them about the discussions we have been having here about facts, identification, and story. I spent an hour or so talking, and they was a lively, engaged crowd. Then came time for comments. A reading teacher spoke up — one year he was dealing with a tough group, boys who just did not want to read. But it so happened that he and the school gym teacher were big soccer fans, and it was the year of the World Cup. The whole group made the World Cup its focus — tracking stats, analyzing teams, doing reports — for that period the boys were all active readers and writers — and precisely because no one called it "reading" — they were just getting info about a great subject.
Then a teacher who deals with Special Ed kids told a story about her own middle son — a confirmed nonreader. He just would not pick up a book. In fact the only thing with writing on it he would even look at was a Pokemon card. Her husband was upset. But she is a good teacher, and recognized reading, math skills, and high interest when she saw it. So she encouraged his Pokemon obsession. He went on Web sites, he read more, he learned that new cards were coming out, but the information on them was in Japanese, so he set out to learn the Japanese characters so he could be the first to find out about the new set.
Finally, a librarian who works with 5th graders described a project with yet another set of poor readers — so below grade they only use picture books. But one she chose was about the Empire State building. Now they were hooked — which is the tallest building in the world now? Why? How is it built — they were off an running, reading about Dubai.
Look, if some of those teachers disagreed with me, they probably would not have come up to me after the talk. I know this is a self-selected group. But these stories keep proving the same point, for some readers, especially boys who consider themselves nonreaders, facts, stats, whether about sports, or in game cards, or about buildings can lead to intelligent, engaged, reading — even to learning Japanesese. What more could you possibly want from a book?