"Reading Don't Fix No Chevy's": Literacy in the Lives of Young Men

by Michael Smith, Jeffrey D Wilhelm
     
 

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The problems of boys in schools, especially in reading and writing, have been the focus of statistical data, but rarely does research point out how literacy educators can combat those problems. That situation has changed. Michael Smith and Jeff Wilhelm, two of the most respected names in English education and in the teaching of reading, worked with a very diverse

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Overview

The problems of boys in schools, especially in reading and writing, have been the focus of statistical data, but rarely does research point out how literacy educators can combat those problems. That situation has changed. Michael Smith and Jeff Wilhelm, two of the most respected names in English education and in the teaching of reading, worked with a very diverse group of young men to understand how they use literacy and what conditions promote it. In this book they share what they have learned.

Through a variety of creative research methods and an extended series of interviews with 49 young men in middle and high school who differ in class, race, academic achievement, kind of school, and geography, the authors identified the factors that motivated these young men to become accomplished in the activities they most enjoyed-factors that marked the boys' literate activities outside of school, but were largely absent from their literate lives in school. Their study questions the way reading and literature are typically taught and suggests powerful alternatives to traditional instruction.

Building their findings on their understanding of the powerful and engaging experiences boys had outside of school, Smith and Wilhelm discuss why boys embrace or reject certain ways of being literate, how boys read and engage with different kinds of texts, and what qualities of texts appeal to boys. Throughout, the authors highlight the importance of choice, the boys' need to be shown how to read, the cost of the traditional teaching of difficult canonical texts, and the crucial place of meaningful social activity.

The authors' data-driven findings are provocative, explaining why boys reject much of school literacy and how progressive curricula and instruction might help boys engage with literacy and all learning in more productive ways. Providing both challenges and practical advice for overcoming those challenges, Smith and Wilhelm have produced a book that will appeal to teachers, teacher educators, and parents alike.

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA
Smith and Wilhelm, two secondary English teachers concerned about boys' resistance to school reading tasks and their underachievement, studied the reading habits of thirty-two boys among high- to low-achieving students in four school districts. They collected four different kinds of data-rankings of various literate activities and interviews about the rankings; reactions to constructed profiles of boys engaged in various literate activities and interviews about their responses; journals of everything read, written, watched, or listened to at school and at home for three months, with interviews about the journals; and observations of the boys in and outside of class. The book profiles these young people and quotes from them extensively, making the book a model for this type of research. For practitioners, the results are significant. Smith and Wilhelm found that social networks and connections, often facilitated by computer communication, were important for reading selection. Significantly, they learned that English teachers were outside the network. Boys rejected "schoolish" forms of literacy. They expected to be engaged in the first few paragraphs, liked stories over facts, and put great importance on visual texts such as on Web sites, television shows, and movies. They liked reading that could be exported into conversation, including newspaper accounts, headlines, box scores, and jokes. They preferred texts that sustain engagement for repeated readings and that provide multiple perspectives. They wanted texts that are novel as opposed to routine; have edgy, subversive content and powerful ideas; and are funny. The book closes with portraits of the boys and implications for teaching.Besides the findings of this particular study, the book is worth its price for the summary of research on boys and literacy as well as for its implications for library collections and services for male adolescents. This book is a must-read for young adult librarians. Index. Biblio. Charts. Appendix. 2002, Heinemann, 224p, Chelton
School Library Journal
Prompted by research showing that girls as a group consistently outperform boys in tasks related to literacy, the authors attempted to determine the possible reasons behind this disparity, using a variety of techniques with a group of 49 boys of various socioeconomic levels, races, ages, educational histories, etc. The result is an evenhanded examination of boys' opinions about and approaches to literacy. The authors acknowledge the limitations of their research and discuss how their data may reflect these shortcomings but still reveal interesting tendencies within their group. The findings are related closely to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's work on "flow experiences." The authors concede that their conclusions could conceivably apply to girls as well as boys, suggesting that addressing student needs by gender may not be the most productive tactic in establishing and promoting literacy. Still, this clear, easy-to-follow text is worth a look, in large part due to its exploration of student approaches to literacy in school and out and how those attitudes can be applied to develop more effective methods of teaching.-Alison Ching, North Garland High School, Garland, TX Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
Based on interviews and observations with a diverse group of 49 young men, this book describes their motivations and applies this understanding to the teaching of literacy skills. It identifies the situations which promote literacy, the texts boys enjoy, and the implications of this knowledge for classroom practices. Smith teaches English education at Rutgers University. Wilhelm teaches literacy at the University of Maine. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780867095098
Publisher:
Heinemann
Publication date:
03/12/2002
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
248
Sales rank:
719,265
Product dimensions:
7.30(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

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