Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Boys And Reading: A Lesson From Cinderella?

One of my guilty pleasures is listening outside my daughters' bedroom door on the nights my husband puts our girls to sleep. Emanating from the crack under the door, come the voices of Anastasia, Drizella, and the Stepmother brought to life in full animation. I live in a story-book bubble where fairy godmothers, talking animals and imaginative characters preside, and where two pint sized tots trot off eagerly to bed for some cuddle time and a nightly story. It makes me wonder if I would have been so lucky had fate filled our household with individuals carrying the XY chromosome instead.

Sadly, it seems I may not have been. Unfortunately, the above scenario does not play itself out as easily when testosterone is the prevailing hormone, with much of the existing research and anecdotal evidence suggesting that boys are less likely to enjoy the pastime of reading. Consider this alarming statement in Jim Trelease's authoritative book, The Read-Aloud Handbook**:

 " early as second grade, fully 25 percent (of boys) had developed a negative attitude about reading." (Trelease, p.156)

For a variety of reasons related to development, temperament, environment and otherwise, boys tend to fall behind when it comes to reading and enjoyment. A worrisome trend for fifty percent of our population! Fortunately, there is hope. And, the researchers have provided two very simple suggestions helping to help alter this statistic:

1. Supply more positive reading role models that boys can identify with (dads, male teachers and community leaders).  (Trelease, p.156)

Who knew that my emoting husband was ahead of the curve? The simple act of curling up at night with his children and a book provides a very clear message that books and reading are for men as well. The fact that he turns the read-aloud into a performance meant to send my children into fits of laughter only emphasizes the idea that books can be fun. Imagine if all fathers, step-father, grandfather and brothers read Jon Scieszka's Smash! Crash! aloud to an eager audience, loudly emphasizing the sound of fender on fender or the squeal of brakes on pavement. Picture a scene where these same male role models spend the time before bed quietly reading side by side with older children. These scenarios play themselves out night after night in many households, often with mothers leading the charge. Isn't it time we shake things up?

2. Allow them to choose books that are decidedly "in-group" for males.  (Trelease, p.156)

A quick perusal of the children's section at bookstores finds images of princesses, ballerinas, heroines and more. I could likely pick any book off the shelf and my daughters would happily flip through the pages. It is often a little harder to pinpoint a books that will immediately hook children of the opposite gender. Fortunately, with a little searching and a willingness to consider less typical sources of reading, exciting and motivating choices can be found. Consider some of the following suggestion:

Books geared towards typically male interests:

Books featuring quirky personalities:

Books staring Male Characters:

Less typical reading materials:


Men, pull a book off the shelf, sharpen your dramatic tendencies, and read to your boys. Who knows, perhaps you will find your equivalent of my husband's  "Cinderella." Aren't our sons, step-sons, grandsons and nephews worth it?

Click here to view collections offered by Laughing Giraffe Books created specifically for boys.

** Jim Trelease, The Read-Aloud Handbook, Fifth Revised Edition (New York: Penguin Books, 2001)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Mommy, There's A Lizard Outside!

As I sit here typing away on the computer we are in the midst of a blizzard -"there's lizards outside," my three year old informed me, the snow plow was forced to give up half way through plowing my driveway, and I am beginning to fear that I may be trapped inside with my two children until Spring.

As the winter weather hits, it becomes increasingly difficult to ensure that our children get the daily dose of activity that keeps them, and as a result the adults who love and spend time with them, healthy and sane. Afternoons at the park, daily walks around the neighborhood and even the relief of daily errands give way to dreams of afternoons at the park, yearnings for daily walks, and surprisingly, even longings for the relief of daily errands.

In an effort to counter the winter-inflicted doldrums, Laughing Giraffe Books offers the following suggestions for books to help encourage young children to wiggle, spin, thump, jump and shimmy their extra energy away:

Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton (infants and preschoolers)
A rhyming, lively book that inspires young children to square dance with a group of spirited barnyard animals. Do-si-do, swing your partner, and "scramble with the little chicks- cheep, cheep, cheep."

Boing! by Nick Bruel (4-7)
A mother kangaroo, with the help of a frog, grasshopper and rabbit, tries to teach her baby to jump. Children will be inspired to jump, leap and boing all the way to the surprise ending.

Can You Make a Scary Face? by Jan Thomas (infants and preschoolers)
A bossy ladybug leads young children on a wiggling, blowing, leaping, chicken-dancing adventure. Be prepared for lots of laughs....

Clap Your Hands by Lorinda Bryan Cauley (3-6)
Full of reasons to get up and dance, this board book will have youngsters stomping, wiggling, roaring, and spinning along with a menagerie of zany animals.

Dinosaurumpus! by Tony Mitton (3-6)
Gleeful rhymes encourage children to "shake, shake, shudder," run, boom and shake with a variety of dinosaurs at a wild, earth-pounding party.

From Head to Toe by Eric Carle (2-6)
Young children will copy the antics of a variety of animals as they shout the refrain, "I can do it!" Kick like a donkey, thump your chest like a gorilla, and banish the bad weather blues.

Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae (infants and preschoolers)
You are invited to the Jungle Dance, where "warthogs waltz, the chimps cha-cha, and the lions tango." Children will be inspired, along with Gerald the Giraffe, to boogie to their own tune.

How Do You Wokka-Wokka? by Elizabeth Bluemle (3-6)
Children will have a "shimmy-shakin', be-boppin'" good time as they explore a lively city neighborhood. How do YOU "wokka-wokka"?

Like A Windy Day by Frank and Devin Asch (5-7)
Discover what the wind can do..."by dancing, whirling, and playing along with it!" Children will blow through tons of energy during this exciting windy-day adventure.

Move! by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page (Infants and preschoolers)
"Animals move! Follow them as they swing, dance, float, leap, and slide from page to page, then learn why these animals move the way they do."

Shake My Sillies Out by Raffi and Allen Allender (infants and preschoolers)
Children will shake, clap, jump and wiggle along with Raffi's version of this favorite childhood song. With any luck your children will be yawning as they reach the end of this musical book.

Wiggle by Doreen Cronin (2-4)
"Do you wake up with a wiggle? Do you wiggle out of bed? For energetic toddlers (are there any who aren't?), here's a book that invites them to wiggle along with the story. Told in rollicky, wiggly rhyme that begs to be read again and again, Doreen Cronin's latest romp will have toddlers wiggling, giggling, and then (hopefully) falling into bed, blissfully exhausted!"

The above mentioned books can be found in the following collections offered by Laughing Giraffe Books: