Shannon’s idea of Stories For All is absolutely fantastic … and absolutely vital.
Fifteen years after founding Guys Read (a web-based literacy initiative for boys at www.guysread.com) in response to the dismal underachievement of boys in reading, I still get questions that let me know we have a long way to go in understanding the role gender might play in reading. And a long way to go in using this understanding to help kids become real readers.
I get questions like:
1. “Why do you have women authors in the Guys Read story collections?”
2. “What should I put in a book if I want to write for boys?”
3. “Why don’t you like girls?”
One of the primary goals of Guys Read is to promote a discussion of gender and reading – how gender might effect reading, how our assumptions about gender might effect reading. Maybe the answers I try to give to these questions can help add to our Stories For All discussion.
1. The Guys Read story collections are original short stories, grouped by genre, by some of the best writers in kids’ books. So OF COURSE they would have women authors.
Boys can, and should read writing by men and women.
Check out this amazing bunch of authors who have contributed to the first six volumes: Kate DiCamillo, Margaret Peterson Haddix, Gennifer Choldenko, Jackie Woodson, Anne Ursu, Shannon Hale, Rebecca Stead, Candace Fleming, Sy Montgomery, Elizabeth Partridge, Thanhha Lai, Lisa Brown, Adele Griffin, Claire Legrand, Rita Williams-Garcia, Kelly Barnhill, and Nikki Lofton.
Who wouldn’t want to read those authors?
And yes, girls can read the Guys Read books too.
2. No one should be writing for boys. Or writing for girls. Please don’t do that.
Our job as authors is to write the best stories we can, and maybe help those stories find their best readers.
If that reader happens to be a boy – great!
If that reader happens to be a girl – great!
3. Efforts to help boys are not efforts to hurt girls.
Literacy is not a zero-sum proposition. Good things we do for boys can make a better reading world for girls.
The more literate any citizen is, the better off we all are.
While working as our first National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, my platform was “Reaching Reluctant Readers”. Visiting schools, speaking at conventions, presenting at libraries, I quickly found that what we had learned about reaching reluctant boy readers applies to every reader. Here are some tips and strategies we can all try. For every reader.
– expand the definition of “reading” to include non-fiction, graphic novels, or genres like sci-fi, even if you personally don't particularly enjoy them
– allow readers a chance for choice. Their choice.
– treat every reader as an individual.
And most importantly
– raise awareness about gender issues and reading.
Suspend quick judgment and blame, and have a discussion.
What I love most about Stories For All is Shannon’s call to hear from the experts – teachers, librarians, booksellers, moms, dads, and the kids themselves. This is not a test with a simple right answer or a wrong answer. It’s a discussion, a process, a chance to make a change for better reading for all.
Jon Scieszka is the award-winning and bestselling author of a boatload of books, including The True Story of the Three Little Pigs!, The Stinky Cheese Man, the Time Warp Trio series, the Trucktown series, and the Frank Einstein series. He was the USA's first National Ambassador for Young People's Literature and is the founder of Guys Read. Jon lives in Brooklyn with his wife. They have two children.