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Nonfiction Matters
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"Reading is Like Basketball. I Love It"

Season Ending Report from Deb Hanson in Florida:

Veterans Park Academy for the Arts 2008-2009 Guys Read Club Summary


Reading is Like Basketball. I love it.


This was one of the comments scribbled on a sticky note on May 14th, 2009 by one of 24 boys who participated in the inaugural, experimental Veterans Park Academy Guys Read Club. It sums up the program in a way nothing else can.


In December 2008, an idea to begin a Guys Read Club for boys began as a small group of dedicated adult men on our faculty volunteered to be mentors to 24 of our most reluctant middle school readers – all boys – boys who also demonstrated some kind of leadership potential (positive or negative).  We began the club by inviting the boys to breakfast and giving them an opportunity to tell us what they were most interested in learning about, talking about, or doing. From there we took their top interests (football, basketball, sports) and chose activities that included reading to engage them in the process of learning and thinking and talking and doing.


By May, 2009 the boys had read dozens of websites, articles, magazines and, yes, even books – about football, basketball, baseball players, local high school athletes, steroids, hockey and more. They had bonded with their mentors, gone on a field trip to a local college basketball game, started promoting books to their classmates, and created a promotional video for the school book fair. But most of all their attitudes about reading had transformed. When asked their “thoughts about reading” in December, the sticky note responses read “Boring”, “LAME.”, “Reading isn’t fun for me. I hate reading.”. In May, 2009 we got notes that said, “Awesome” “Reading is like basketball. I love it.” and “Reading is way more exciting than what I thought thanks to Guys Read Club.”


The most difficult part of this experiment was finding enough time and the right time to have club meetings. Because many of the boys participated in after school sports and teachers had after school meetings, we chose to meet before school at 7:30 AM. This meant the kids had to get there early and they missed “social time” out in the courtyard with their friends. Also, most of our mentors were teachers with first period classes, so we had to end the meetings by 8:00 AM. The second problem we had was that many of these boys would miss breakfast if they came to the club meetings, so we fed them at the meetings. Finding donors for donuts and juice every week proved to be difficult, but we provided it anyway through personal donations by staff members.


At one point we found that some of the boys were taking advantage of the food and fun, but were not contributing to the discussions or reading.  This is when the mentors decided to assign each mentor to a small group of boys, keeping track of them outside of club meetings as well as during meetings. They also added some competition to the activities, thanks to the advice from Marc Aronson and Charles Smith. Both these strategies worked and by the end of the year, the boys were much more involved and active.


One of the biggest challenges, and I think mistakes on our part, came when the mentors decided they wanted to get the boys into books and have each small group read a book together. Because we did not have multiple copies of good choices of non-fiction at lower reading levels, some of the groups chose to read novels. While some novels proved to be good reads and engaged the boys, others did not. When we do it again, I will encourage the mentors to choose more non-fiction books related to the boys interests for their first book to read together. 


All in all, our Guys Read Club has been good for these boys. They feel special. They’ve learned that reading is not boring and lame when it helps them learn about things they are interested in. They’ve learned that people care that they succeed.  They feel more comfortable with finding information and reading for fun. They are willing to risk being seen with a magazine or book in hand. Our last meeting of the year is next week. The boys will complete a 6-station reading and physical challenge in the gym and then we will present each boy with a certificate and a copy of Guys Write for Guys Read to take home this summer.


The impact of the club has reached well beyond the boys for which it was formed. Other boys are now asking to be included. Girls are asking if we can have a read club just for them. And so, next year our school will have “Read Clubs” for every middle school student. They will choose their club based on their interests – sports, music, famous people, cooking, romance, and more. Time will tell if this idea is successful.



Deb Hanson

Media Specialist

Veterans Park Academy for the Arts



2008-2009 Guys Read Club




Adult male mentors committed time & energy

Too little time  for meetings (needed 45 min – 1hr)

Targeted most reluctant readers

Kids were selected by teachers, not self-selected

Focused on student interests

Required a lot of planning, coordination, commitment for the mentors outside their regular work hours and duties

Started with short reading assignments – websites, articles, excerpts from books

No funding for program initially (did get parent group to purchase Guys Write books)

Got free magazines from ESPN


Kids love to eat – provided breakfast


Worked up from websites to books


Gave students right reasons to read (find info about stuff they love, make choices about sports/teams/etc.)






  1. Michelle Mell says:

    I think this is an amazing commitment from our teachers and Media Specialist! Our boys are so lucky to have educators who do whatever it takes to help them love reading!


  1. […] Marc Aronson is one of my personal heroes. He was the behind-the-scenes mentor and adviser for the Guys Read Club I started at my school a couple years ago. His advice helped us build a program that made a huge […]