Parenting Readers Pick Books for Boys

By L. Carol Ritchie
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Do boys really lag behind girls in reading? Educators read the studies and disagree. A recent study concludes that the "boy crisis" is a myth, a backlash against the women's movement which feeds the media thirst for looming disasters.

Boys reading scores have improved on average since 1990, but boys still lag behind girls.

No boy will read for fun if he finds the material boring, and much of the assigned reading for young ages has little appeal to boys, who look for action and adventure as well as fact-based and how-to literature, writes Emily Bazelon of Slate. Boys read on a need-to-know basis, Bazelon writes. "They don't set out looking for story and relationship."

Here's the list culled from Parenting reader suggestions, divided into picture books, books for early-elementary, late-elementary and middle-school-and-beyond readers, comic books and magazines.

We've only skimmed the surface of written words appealing to boys. You can help this page grow by e-mailing what your boys are reading to parenting@washingtonpost.com.

Picture Books

* Snail and the Whale, by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler, earned a BBC book club Best Illustrated Book to Read Aloud award for 2005.

* "Explorers Wanted!: At the North Pole" earned the BBC's Best Book With Facts.

* "The Cat in the Hat" by Dr. Seuss.

* "Dirty Bertie" by David Roberts.

* "What Can You Do With a Tail Like This?" and "Actual Size" by Steve Jenkins.

* "Skeleton Hiccups" by Margery Cuyler.

* "You Can Do It, Sam" by Amy Hest, illustrated by Anita Jeram.

* "Thomas' Snowsuit" and any of Robert Munsch's other 45 books. "Love You Forever," based on a song Munsch wrote to his two stillborn babies, turns 20 this year.

* "Traction Man Is Here" by Mini Grey, winner of the 2005 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award. Traction Man is an action figure who fights household enemies with his trusty sidekick, Scrubbing Sponge.

* "Beegu" and "Slow Loris" by Alexis Deacon.

* "Tell Me a Picture" by Robert Blake --familiar to many as the illustrator of many Roald Dahl books--helps children understand famous works of art.

* I Spy books by Jean Marzollo.

"Good Night, Gorilla" by Peggy Rathmann.

* "Parts" by Tedd Arnold. High gross-out factor with hilarious illustrations.

Early Elementary

* "Skippyjon Jones" by Judy Schachner. A hyperactive kitten goes on an adventure in his closet.

* "Stuart's Cape" by Sara Pennypacker. A little boy finds adventure and escape from worries with a cape.

* The Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne stands at 35 books and counting. Among children ages 5 to 9, Osborne has earned a cult-like popularity that rivals J.K. Rowling, says the Raleigh Independent Weekly.

* The Hank Zipzer books, featuring the World's Greatest Underachiever, by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver.

* The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi.

* Third Grade Detectives by George E. Stanley.

* The My Weird School series by Dan Gutman and Jim Paillot.

* The Boxcar Children, a series written by Gertrude Chandler Warner in the 1942 using only the 500 most common words in the English language to create an easy-to-read chapter book.

* Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary, who turned 90 this year. Ramona is being made into a movie, but Cleary promises she won't turn into a plastic fast-food toy.

* Nate the Great mysteries by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat.

* Cam Jansen mysteries by David A. Adler.

Late Elementary

* The Edge Chronicles by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell. "The nice thing about writing a series is that we can enrich the world constantly," said Stewart in a washingtonpost.com online discussion. Exploring the familiar makes books in series attractive to boys as well.

* Dragon Slayers' Academy by Kate McMullan.

* The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.

* My Father's Dragon, a three-book series by Ruth Stiles Gannett.

* The Hardy Boys by Franklin W. Dixon.

* "The Indian in the Cupboard" by Lynne Reid Banks.

* "Where the Red Fern Grows" by Wilson Rawls. (Parent alert: A dog dies in this book, which is a little too heavy for some readers.)

* Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling. Rowling said recently that two characters will die in the seventh and final installment of the series--hinting that Harry Potter might be one of them.

* "You Be the Jury" by Marvin Miller.

* "The Kid Who Only Hit Homers" and other Sports Classics series by Matt Christopher.

* "Redwall" by Brian Jacques.

Middle School and Beyond

* Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud.

* "Hatchet" by Gary Paulsen, about a boy surviving in the Canadian wilderness.

* Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman.

* "The Thief Lord," "Inkheart" and "Dragon Rider" by Cornelia Funke.

* The Redwall series by Brian Jacques.

* "The Westing Game" by Ellen Raskin, winner of the 1979 Newberry Award. KidsPost called it a "complicated, confounding, funny mystery."

* "The Sign of the Beaver" by Elizabeth George Speare, a 1984 Newberry Honor book. Two boys, a settler and an Indian, find friendship in 18th-century Maine.

* "My Side of the Mountain" by Jean Craighead George.

* "The Physician" by Noah Gordon, the story of quest for medical knowledge set in 11th-century London.

* "Cold Service and other mysteries by Robert B. Parker.

* "47" by Walter Mosely. A 14-year-old slave meets a mysterious runaway in a story that is part mystery, part historical fiction, and part science fiction.

* "The Street" by Ann Petry.

* "The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley

* "Makes Me Wanna Holler : A Young Black Man in America" by Nathan McCall.

* "The House on Mango Street" by Sandra Cisneros.

* "Stones In Water" by Donna Jo Napoli. Three Italian boys are trapped by Nazi soldiers and taken to a work camp, where they face horrendous conditions. Warning: While the main character escapes, one is beaten to death.

Comics

* Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson.

* Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz.

* Garfield the Cat by Jim Davis.

* Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey.

* Tintin by Herge.

* The Manga series Naruto, about a boy climbing the Ninja school ranks. The Phoenix newspaper called Naruto "on the verge of Pokemon-big."

Magazines

* Highlights

* Ranger Rick

* Sports Illustrated for Kids

* Lego magazine

* Discover

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