Research shows boys prefer nonfiction.
By VERONICA GORLEY
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- If you are having problems motivating your boys to read, you are not alone.
"Sometimes you have to push them a little bit," said Leslie Fitzgerald, librarian for Harding Elementary School.
Youngstown Christian School's librarian Marci McCombs thinks that in general, motivating boys to read is more difficult than motivating girls. She also believes reading and success in school go hand-in-hand.
"Students who are readers seem to be good students too," McCombs said. "I don't think that's a coincidence."
Dr. Joyce Feist-Willis, associate professor at Youngstown State University, believes motivating kids to read early helps to develop a lifelong love of reading. Feist-Willis instructs teachers how to teach reading and remedial courses in the classroom. In encouraging reading in boys, she said parents need to find what interests their son.
"Boys will read," Feist-Willis said. "The biggest problem is finding what they will read."
More facts: According to Feist-Willis, new research indicates that boys want to read fewer fictional stories and more factual books.
"For the most part, boys want to read real stuff," she said. "What they want to know is why airplanes fly."
Feist-Willis believes that authors and publishers are taking note of the new research findings and are producing more nonfiction books for boys.
"We're seeing a flood of wonderful information books on social studies and science," Feist-Willis said.
Bo Campbell, 7, of Hubbard seems to prefer nonfiction books. He said he enjoys reading about airplanes and animals.
Feist-Willis also noted that many series for kids today are oriented toward girls, though one series, the "Goosebumps" books by R. L. Stine, is popular for boys because they are accepted among boys' peers.
Kevin Williams, 8, said he reads the "Goosebumps" books, and so do a lot of boys in his second-grade class at Hubbard Roosevelt. He prefers horror stories, and his favorite book is "The Phantom Tollbooth."
A stigma: Feist-Willis is concerned that some cultures attach a stigma to reading for men. Kids growing up in atmospheres where men are never seen reading do not believe it is an acceptable habit for men. She also believes parents themselves need to get involved in reading.
"It's not enough to encourage them to read," Feist-Willis said. "Parents need to model it."
She said parents need to show enjoyment in reading, to read to their kids and to talk about what they read together.
"[I like] when my parents read with me," Campbell said.
Christopher Klug, 10, also said he likes it when people read to him. Klug is a fourth-grade student at Hubbard Roosevelt who enjoys reading mysteries and scary stories. He said he visits Hubbard Public Library often, and he participates in the summer reading program there.
Lauren Berndt of Boardman said she takes her kids, Jonathon, 4, and Emily, 6, to the library at least every other week.
"I love to read, and I want them to enjoy it," Berndt said.
Berndt said her son's tastes are varied. Some of his favorite books are on dinosaurs, the Berenstein Bears and Arthur.
"I like this one the best," Jonathon said, indicating the Paddington Bear alphabet book before him.
Jonathon also said he enjoys reading with his mother and sister.
"He hasn't started reading yet, but he likes to pretend, and sometimes Emily will sit and read with him," Berndt said. "From ages four to six, it's just about opening the doors, enjoying the basic action of reading books," she said.
Magazines for kids: Feist-Willis proposes that parents should look into magazines geared to kids, such as Sports Illustrated for Kids and National Geographic WORLD.
At Harding Elementary's library, Fitzgerald provides magazines like Boy's Life, Jack and Jill and Highlights. She has adopted Donald J. Sobol's "Encyclopedia Brown" series of books and videos to encourage reading.
Fitzgerald said she looks for materials especially for boys, adding that boys often like books on geography, science, experiments and animals.
Nancy Bolchalk, librarian at Hubbard Roosevelt, believes boys enjoy books on cars, drawing and "creepy things" like snakes and insects. The Harry Potter series is also popular, and one of her students said that kids in his class lend the Harry Potter books to their friends when they're done reading them.
According to McCombs, books and magazines on sports, nature, space and mystery are popular among elementary-age boys.
Corey Flick, 9, of Hubbard said he prefers reading mysteries, and sometimes he reads sports books. "The Secret of the Old Clock," a Nancy Drew Mystery, is his favorite book.
Other favorites: Barb Alexander, librarian for Our Lady of Mount Carmel Elementary School in Niles, said the Hardy Boys, dinosaurs, Clifford and Scooby Doo are also favorites.
"At every grade level, there's something different for boys," Alexander said.
For older readers, Feist-Willis suggests the "Scooter Spies" series by Michael Dahl and "Shiloh" trilogy by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, as well as authors such as Jerry Spinelli, Elizabeth George Speare and Gary Paulsen.
Books recommended by Feist-Willis for younger readers include Jean Craighead George's "One Day in the Tropical Rain Forest," Joanna Cole's "The Magic School Bus" series and Marc Brown's "Arthur" chapter books series. Other series to investigate are Suzy Kline's "Horrible Harry" series, Mary Pope Osborne's "Magic Treehouse" series and Debbie Dadey and Marcia Thornton's "Adventures of the Bailey School Kids" series.
Fitzgerald said books that are popular among boys at Harding are Bob Italia's "The Green Bay Packers," Bert Randolph Sugar's "The One Hundred Greatest Athletes of All Time: A Sports Editor's Personal Ranking," Pat Rediger's "Great African Americans in Sports" and Madeline Goodstein's "Sports Science Projects: The Physics of Balls in Motion."