Several years ago, my attempt at an after school book club at our middle school was a rather spectacular failure. I didn't have one the next year; but never one to give up, I held the hope of a second attempt in the back of my mind.That year, our 6th graders had the good fortune to experience a week-long outdoor education experience at North Bay camp in Northern Maryland. They were put in same gender groups and boys and girls did not mix for the entire week. The dynamic was so interesting that I wondered if maybe it could be the answer to my book club dilemma.Thus, the Guys Read and Readergirlz clubs were born. Each group has their own meeting once a month. They read different books and have very different meetings.
How did I entice boys to come to a book club? Food, messy science experiments, and shameless promotion. Each meeting starts with food and social time, much of which is spent with much "Can you top this?", jumping around, and seeing how much food each guy can fit in his mouth all at once. After the guys refill their food and drinks, we discuss the book we've read for the month. Everyone participates unprompted and the conversation is startlingly honest - boys are not afraid to call each other out. After the discussion, I introduce the book for the next month by reading a portion of the first chapter aloud. Then we make some sort of huge mess in the name of science. We've made our own silly putty, put LOTS of Mentos into diet soda for a geyser contest while videotaping the results, made baking soda and vinegar bombs with balloons and launched them in the parking lot, and played with oobleck (cornstarch, water, food coloring) in assorted colors. Today we made magnetic super putty using fart putty and iron shavings, then played with it using magnets. You can not imagine what a hit this was, though I had to allow about 10 minutes of fart putty play time before we started magnetizing it.
We have only two rules in Guys Read:
1. Respect one another - This means no mockery and you have to listen when someone is talking during book discussion.
2. Don't spill your soda on the carpet
So far this has worked. The boys seem to appreciate that I trust them and don't mind how loud and boisterous they get. Though sometimes they need to be reminded we have the two rules, they've been remarkably good. Our band director started coming to our meetings last year, and as he is an actual guy it adds much to our meetings in fun, point of view and modeling how to misbehave within limits.
This month we are reading A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz. The Guys seem excited and so am I.
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