Jeff Wilhelm and Michael Smith’s Reading Don’t Fix No Chevys not only has a great title but interesting insight into adolescent boys’ relationship to reading. Let me add one short anecdote to their work.
A few months ago, my neighbor Bob and his teenage son Ben came over to help me move some furniture. Somehow, I ended up lending Ben a book I’d just read, Matt de la Pena’s Mexican Whiteboy. I thought he’d like it because he loves baseball, and the novel’s protagonist practices his pitching throughout the novel (Ben’s a pitcher, too). I told him the book was a little controversial, that it had been banned in Tucson. And then I realized that Ben’s ethnic background was similar to the main character’s.
This evening, Bob brought the book back to me. The book looked very different from when I lent it to Ben–the page edges were worn and a little dirty. Bob told me that Ben had enjoyed the book so much that he had lent it to a friend to read–and then that friend lent it to another friend. Bob looked a little sheepish about how it looked, but I was just really glad that Ben and his friends had liked the novel so much.
Boys and reading–a lot depends on finding books that are relevant and interesting to them.