About Us

Introduction

In 2001 noted children’s author Jon Scieszka created a nonprofit literacy organization and website called Guys Read to promote boys’ reading. Greg Hill, the Director of the Fairbanks North Star Borough Public Libraries in Fairbanks, Alaska, was inspired by the website and expanded on some basic concepts presented there to develop a unique program, also called Guys Read, which is outlined in this manual. The program’s objective is to demonstrate to the most reluctant readers that:

– Books can be fun.

– Many men enjoy reading.

– Libraries can be fun places to visit.

The program emphasizes fun because reading for pleasure naturally leads to improved reading skills, which in turn promote better assimilation of knowledge and higher reading comprehension scores. Establishing male readers as role models helps to counter a wide-spread stereotype of reading as a feminine activity. Showing reluctant readers that books can be fun will encourage them to read and use the library.

The approach outlined is flexible and can work in a variety of settings. While the books, flyers, etc. produced for the FNSB Public Library’s Guys Read program concentrate specifically on reaching 4th grade guys, there is no reason why the basic strategy behind the program won’t work with many other grade levels and institutions. It can easily be adapted for use by school libraries, PTAs, literacy councils, and other organizations interested in child literacy. A detailed outline of our 2008 program can be found in Appendix A.

We are fortunate to have a tradition of strong working relationships with our local school district, but not all libraries are as lucky. Regardless of your situation with your school district, this Guys Read program should be acceptable to teachers and administrators since it doesn’t reduce instructional or recess time and can potentially improve reading scores.

Ultimately, it is essential to develop a strong partnership with your local schools and for them to take some ownership in order to successfully deliver the program. Naturally, the more resources
available for enhancing the program, the greater its immediate and future impact. The financial support provided by a local business and the Fairbanks North Star Borough allowed us to provide an expanded program that included purchasing books for the school libraries and for each boy that participated in the program.

Choosing Books for Boys

Here are the main features we look for in selecting books for Guys Read:

– BOY-FRIENDLINESS – Strong appeal to 4th grade boys: funny, exciting, outrageous, or all three. Generally, the books should contain fresh, new concepts;

– GOOD ILLUSTRATIONS – Well executed, evocative artwork that allows all levels of readers to enjoy the book, effective sequencing of frames (good flow and not herky-jerky), legible lettering of text;

– SIMILAR BOOKS – Books that are part of a popular series (not already owned by the school libraries), from popular authors, or with connections to popular cultural (for example, movie tie-ins);

– SIMPLE CENTRAL CHARACTERS – 4th grade boys enjoy projecting themselves into the central character, so it must be interesting yet vague enough that many boys can identify with it;

– FAST-OPENING PLOTS – Story must open up quickly to engage the boys within the 20 minutes of available reading time.