I met a young man in the library last night. Let’s call him Miguel. He came up to the Information Desk with a shy smile, and asked if we might have any books about soccer. “Books about how to play soccer, or stories with soccer in them?” I asked. “Stories,” he said. “I need to practice my reading.”
Boy comes to library to practice his reading. In the summertime. Words to engage this reader’s heart. I smiled beautifically. “What grade at you going into, Miguel?” I asked as I looked through the library catalogue. “Seventh,” he said, “but I don’t read good. My teacher says I read like third grade.”
I found him a few chapter books and had him read a paragraph. “How many words are hard for you in that paragraph?” “Three or four,” he said, slowly sounding them out. “That’s just right,” I told him, “hard enough to make you learn new words.” He grinned again and thanked me, looking at the boy playing soccer on the cover.
“Shall we get you a couple of books that will be easy for you, too?” I asked, thinking that maybe some confidence-building would also be useful, even if the content was a little babyish for him. Miguel thought that was a great idea, so we found a couple more and he checked them out.
A couple of things struck me about Miguel. First, he might be a total mischief-maker elsewhere, but he has a grin that will get him far in this life. Second, he has a presence unusual for his age; if he was a bit shy, he didn’t appear to be ashamed of his current proficiency, or hesitant to ask for help.
A lot has been written in the last years about helping boys become readers. If you’re interested, one place to look is http://www.guysread.com/about/. The popular blog “The Huffington Post” just this week had a post entitled Can fart jokes get boys reading?
I guess meeting Miguel made me aware that for every motivated, vibrant brown-eyed cutie asking for help finding soccer books, there must be many others who need encouragement and coaxing and sustained attention to get a sense of the magic of books. Maybe it takes a village to help a boy learn to read. That’s a village I’d like to live in.
—– Mary Beth