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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

Boys and Summer Reading

What Do You Like to Do?

My older son just finished a week of basketball camp; most days just after he finished shooting he got into a car to be driven to a game his travel baseball team was playing. He was playing some form of organized sport for about 11 hours a day. There were only three other things he had space for: food, the Yankees, and reading, His choices seem so obvious to me that I wonder why we have any trouble with boys and reading at all. At breakfast: the sports section — how did the Yankees do, down to the fine print of the stats. After dinner, a bio of a sports hero — Derek Jeter, Yogi Berra, greatest world series games; and then, to relax some funny book Andrew Clements, Dan Gutman, Louis Sacher. 

I know boys are different — some would be reading fantasy and hate sports. Charles Smith tells me that his son, also on a select baseball team, goes for Mike Lupica (sports fiction) and Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books, stories with clear direct plots. But the basic outline of Sasha’s choices seem so obvious: he likes direct physical competition involving skill and clear outcomes. Thus he enjoys books that describe direct physical competition involving skill and clear outcomes. He likes gaining the mastery of names, dates, events — sports history. And he likes to be entertained. 

If we want boys to read during the summer the simple question is — what do you like to do? summer is about action, activity — swimming, riding, playing ball, sailing — find books, nonfiction books, that relate to those actions and they fit naturally in a boy’s life. Of course a kid also needs a break, a chance to forget a strike out, a lost game, a long, long day. He needs a master to make him laugh and see how silly the world can be (we watch John Stewart, he reads Dan Gutman).

Sure some boys just will not read. But I have to think if just offered them books tha added on to what they spend all day doing, we’d have a shot of gaining their interest, attention, and confidence.

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