Friday, September 28, 2007

Jon Scieszka Fan Club

I'm a big fan of Stinky Cheese Club, Time Warp Trio, etc. creator Jon Scieszka. (This pic is of him in Grade 5. Yup, it's from your web site Mr. Scieszka, but I'm not saying anything nasty, so I hope you don't sue me.) Honestly, I don't know that kids always get his wacky humour, but that's okay, I love his work (and, of course, Lane Smith's equally wacky illustrations alongside) and he keeps cranking them out. Check out the You Tube "trailer" for his upcoming Cowboy & Octopus posted above. But Jon's on my mind for other things. He's a great promoter of boys and reading and trying to figure out how the two can successfully come together. To this end, he's created the fab Guys Read. There's an interesting interview with him in the September/October issue of The Horn Book. (You can access to some of the content in this issue here.) Here's an bit of what he had to say:

Roger Sutton: Why do we need Guys Read? What's wrong? What are you trying to fix?

Jon Scieszka: I'm trying to fix that boys never give reading a change. They're so impulsive and so into instant gratificaion, or else they turn off reading because of an experience like having to read a particular book for school. Whihc is what happened to my son in third grade: Little House on the Praire was the one required summer reading book. To his credit, he read the whole thing, but he just kept syaing, "Nothing's happening!" Finally he decided, "All right, that's reading, then. That's not for me. I'll play hockey instead." It killed me to see him give up on before he had the chance to find something he really liked.

Of course, not everybody has to read really well, because I think we also tyrannize kids by saying everybody has to love reading; reading is magic. And it's not magic for those guy, it's really hard work.

RS: Or even if we do say reading is fun, we sometimes give them books that we think are fun but kids don't.

JS: Yeah. I think a lot of boys get the impression that reading equals school. And they see school as a bunch of adults telling them what to do. Reading gets tangled up with that. It's interesting: in a lot of studies, boys will say they're not readers, but when the studies actually tracked what boys did read, they read a ton of stuff! Nonfiction, magazines, newspapers, computer manuals. Those are the storytelling styles that boys prefer, humor or non-fiction or graphic novels.
Later...'re always speaking to that audience. [When I was a teacher] I was trying to reach those kids in the back of my classroom, who were back tehre dicking around and doing nothing. So now, if the guy in the back of the rooms hears his teacher reading Stinky Cheese Man, I hope it makes him sit up and say, "What? You can say that?" I want to shock him into realizing that reading, books, can belong to him, too.

Go, Jon, Go. So... But, I wonder, if boys aren't reading all that much how come we still manage to have a world where the majority of adult novelists are men? Are men reading their books? I would say, yes, but I would wager that women still read far more.

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