High Interest Nonfiction for Boys

We all know the challenges struggling readers face.  Often, those struggles are magnified even more with boys.  Luckily, we have many excellent educators and librarians out there spreading awareness and working with boys to help them and encourage them to become lifelong readers.  Organizations such as Guys Read are excellent as well.  Here are some statistics and facts from their website that starkly illustrate the issue:

  • The U.S. Department of Education reading tests for the last 30 years show boys scoring worse than girls in every age group, every year.
  • Eighth grade boys are 50 percent more likely to be held back than girls.
  • Two-thirds of Special Education Students in high school are boys.
  • Overall college enrollment is higher for girls than boys.

So, how do we make sure we are getting nonfiction into our collections that boys will read?  Some key things to consider are:

Appearance

Many boys are very visual learners, and a huge factor for any reader is an enticing cover.  Similarly, the book should be packed with quality illustrations or photographs.  Since books of this type are often being read by students reading below grade level, they cannot look like “little kid” books.  The level of visual sophistication can make or break whether or not a book is picked up and read.

Content

Knowing what your boy students are “into” will help you determine interesting books for them.  This can sometimes be difficult and frustrating, because you may not share those interests!  (When my boys talk about Minecraft, it is like a foreign language to me). Also, text needs to be straightforward and fluent.

Bias

We need to change our thinking when it comes to finding books for boys.  We may wish that boys constantly read literary masterpieces, but the reality is that any reading is reading. Comic books and graphic novels are reading, audiobooks are reading, magazines are reading, etc.  I remember reading the back of my cereal box each morning.  Reading is reading, in whatever form, and getting boys to read, even if it is the Sunday comics, is a step in their literacy growth.  I confess that I wince a bit each time I place a professional wrestling title on our Sports lists (I feel it is more appropriate in Performing Arts!) but I know that those books will be picked up by many boys,  so it makes it OK.

The above just scratches the surface on this issue, but I do need to get to some book suggestions for you!  I hope to return to this topic in subsequent blog posts.

Some titles by Capstone Press have recently come across my desk that I just know boys will like.  They fit the criteria above and would make great additions to your collection.

Legendary Warriors Series:

Ninja by Adrienne Lee. 9781476531120. 2013. Gr. K-3.

A masked ninja with only his intense eyes showing graces the cover of this title that showcases the life and ways of the ancient Japanese warriors.  The focus here isn’t all about the violence that came with the title of ninja; the history and origins of ninjas are prominent as well.  Stealth and discipline are discussed and a variety of weapons and tools are shown.

Other titles in the series:

Aztec Warriors by Adrienne Lee. 9781476531175. 2013. K-3.

Gladiators by Adrienne Lee. 9781476531144. 2013. K-3.

Knights by Adrienne Lee. 9781476531151. 2013. K-3.

Samurai by Adrienne Lee. 9781476531137. 2013. K-3.

Vikings by Adrienne Lee. 9781476531168. 2013. K-3.

Magic Manuals Series:

Dazzling Card Tricks by Norm Barnhart. 9781476501338. 2013. Gr. 2-5.

Who doesn’t like a good magic trick?  In this book, a variety of tricks are outlined, and easy-to-follow steps are given on how to successfully perform them.  Steps are accompanied by photos to aid in correctly performing each step, and suggestions for showmanship and embellishing tricks are also included.  Precocious prestidigitators will love astounding their friends.

Other titles in the series:

Fantastically Funny Tricks by Norm Barnhart. 9781476501369. 2013. Gr. 2-5.

Marvelous Money Tricks by Norm Barnhart. 9781476501345. 2013. Gr. 2-5.

Stunning Stage Tricks by Norm Barnhart. 9781476501352. 2013. Gr. 2-5.

Dangerous History Series:

Brutal Games: History’s Most Dangerous Sports by Marty Gitlin. 9781476501253. 2013. Gr.  2-5.

Grownups are always telling kids to “be careful” and “don’t play rough”, but maybe living vicariously through those that do is OK.  This book is all about overcoming fear, taking risks, and “playing rough”.  This adrenaline-fueled book covers activities such as BASE jumping, bull-riding, and Australian rules football, and also gets historical, highlighting jousting and gladiators.  Fact boxes along the way give statistics and definitions on the different activities, adding depth and context.

Other titles in the series:

Dangerous Times: History’s Most Troubled Eras by Matt Chandler. 9781476501260. 2013. Gr.  2-5.

Killer Jobs: History’s Most Dangerous Jobs by Suzanne Garbe. 9781476501277. 2013. Gr.  2-5.

Threatening Skies: History’s Most Dangerous Weather by Suzanne Garbe. 9781476501284. 2013. Gr.  2-5.

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