Welcome to Guys Read, a web-based literacy program for boys founded by author and First National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature Jon Scieszka. Our mission is to help boys become self-motivated, lifelong readers.
Research shows that boys are having trouble reading, and that boys are getting worse at reading. No one is quite sure why. Some of the reasons are biological. Some of the reasons are sociological. The good news is that research also shows that boys will read — if they are given reading that interests them.
So the biggest part of this site is the collection of titles below. These are books that guys have told us they like.
Our idea is to help guys become readers by helping them find texts they want to read.
Get in there and start looking around. There is a little something for everyone.
And please help guys out by recommending more of your guy-favorites.
Guys Read is also multi-volume book set, each volume featuring ten of the best writers in different genres, hoping to serve as an introduction to writers and illustrators guys will want to know better. There are five so far, from HarperCollins: Funny Business, Thriller, The Sports Pages, Other Worlds, and True Stories.
Guys Read is also all of the clubs that keep the GR mission alive in libraries, classrooms, and living rooms from coast-to-coast and around the globe! (Here’s a map of all the field offices.)
I Am Drums is a perfect Middle Grade novel for any kid who has been told or felt that they’re dumb for dreaming. (Check out our full review here.) We were thrilled to chat with the author, Mike Grosso, about how being a teacher and musician inform his writing.
GR: Why did you choose a girl narrator?
MG: I wish there was some profound reason why, but the truth is I saw her that way in my imagination. I’m a big believer in letting characters develop naturally, and that it’s good to trust your instincts and write what feels real. I didn’t hardwire her personality in any special way. I just gave her the struggles I see in artistic kids who follow their own rhythm and let her speak in her own voice. Boys have responded well to the book so far, so I’m happy to see them embracing a girl narrator!
GR: What about writing to a middle grade audience is special to you?
MG: I’m very much a voice writer, and MG thrives on voice. As a teacher by day, I spend most of my time with middle grade kids. The way they interact is fascinating. Their conversations are wild and intense. They mean what they say and say what they mean. That can lead to drama at times, but the stories that surround them are amazing.
It’s surreal seeing my book appear on my students’ desks. Ever cooler is seeing them finish it with a smile and ask questions about the end!
GR: Where does your passion for music come from?
MG: I grew up in a musical family. I have early Pre-K memories of my parents playing cover songs with neighborhood friends. I was three or four the first time I heard the Beatles on the radio—I ran to my mom to warn her another band had stolen their songs! She got a real kick out of that. My two older brothers and I played various instruments because it was a part of our household. I was ten or eleven before I realized not everyone had an upright bass in their dining room. So I don’t think there was any possibility I wouldn’t end up a musician. It’s in my blood.
GR: Sam’s family is very affected by the recession. How much awareness of these realities do you see in your students?
MG: In my experience kids are either acutely aware of the recession’s effects or are from families so secure they have no idea it ever happened. The latter, unfortunately, can create a culture of apathy and misunderstanding for those less fortunate. What really seems to confuse kids is where all of the money went. It’s hard for them to grasp that middle class money didn’t disappear—it’s just in the hands of fewer people, and those people tend to have educational tunnel vision. If it doesn’t affect the kids they care about, they don’t see any effect at all.
GR: What ways make it easier to talk about this with students?
MG: I think the key to teaching about any recession is to help kids understand that it’s not a single cause and effect. There are multiple bad decisions that cause them, and they hurt families all over the world in radically different ways. The effects of this past recession will linger, and I try to teach my kids (with some success, I hope) to see the bigger picture of what happened and challenges we’ll face in the coming years.
GR: Nothing comes easy to Sam. I think that’s true for most artists. What were some of your greatest set-backs and challenges?
MG: Every author collects rejection letters, so if you want to take a shot at doing this professionally you need to get used to the word NO. To use a sports analogy (since the Cubs finally won the World Series!), you can’t quit the first time you strikeout. To use a music analogy, you can’t expect to play the drums if you haven’t practiced and learned from better players. Writing is the same. Don’t give up. Writers need to read a lot of books and write regularly the same way musicians need to listen to lots of music and practice regularly. You also need to understand that publishing your first book doesn’t mean rejection and failure is over. I lost my first publisher overnight and went back to square one. Sam wouldn’t have quit, so neither did I. Now I have a book on shelves!
GR: What advice do you have for young people trying to create?
MG: My best advice is to give yourself permission to fail. To try scary things knowing that sometimes they aren’t going to work out. Sometimes you’ll fall on your face or look silly, but the people who laugh are mostly just ashamed they were too scared to give it a try.
Over weekly Dungeons & Dragons nights, Archie, Marti, Dante, and Sam have become the kind of friends who like each other but don’t really know each other. Like, what is actually going on in each others’ lives. When one of the members of the group is broken up with by his girlfriend, who they also knew and kind of didn’t know, they go with him on a road trip to try and win her back. And the confusions and dramas they’ve all been dealing with on their own come out full force to be reckoned with. They won’t just be seeing if they can help their friend get the girl back. They’ll be seeing if all of them can actually be friends.
Looking for an activity to bring out creativity in this winter weather when we’re often stuck indoors? LOOK NO FURTHER! Get a group together, brainstorm and shoot a short film based on a Newbery Award winning book to submit to this young filmmakers film-fest. The wackier and weirder the better, and downright bizarre is not only encouraged but beloved—just look at some of the favorites they’ve compiled from their six years running!
Jon Sciesszka himself was one of the rotating co-hosts at a New York screening some years back, so he can attest it’s always a blast! And don’t worry if, like most of the country, you’re nowhere near New York—this film fest travels coast to coast, with stops in (click each city to make free reservations there):
San Antonio, TX (January 21—unfortunately, the special deadline for this screening passed, but attending is still a great group activity.) Hosted by authors James Kennedy (The Order of Odd-Fish) and Nikki Loftin (Wish Girl).
San Francisco, CA (February 18) Hosted by authors James Kennedy (The Order of Odd-Fish), Keir Graff (Matchstick Castle), and Marcus Ewert (Mummy Cat).
New York, New York (March 11) Hosted by authors James Kennedy (The Order of Odd-Fish) and Keir Graff (Matchstick Castle).
Brooklyn, NY (March 12) Hosted by authors James Kennedy (The Order of Odd-Fish) and Keir Graff (Matchstick Castle).
Chicago, IL (April 1) Hosted by authors James Kennedy (The Order of Odd-Fish) and Keir Graff (Matchstick Castle).
Boston, MA (April 30) Hosted by author James Kennedy (The Order of Odd-Fish) and National Book Award winner M.T. Anderson (Feed, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, and Symphony for the City of the Dead).
If there isn’t a festival stop near you, it’s still a great opportunity to get a team together be creative and celebrated—the entries are streamed online, too.
What better way to spend some time on winter break? Get those lights on, that camera rolling, and start shouting at your friends things like “WHERE ARE MY ACTORS?! HIT YOUR MARKS!! AAAAAAAAAND, ACTION!”
Posted by Jon on Monday, December 12, 2016