15 June 2012

Guys Read

If you’re reading this between 10 am and 1 pm, California time, on Friday, then — Even as you read, buddy! — I’m behind the wheel of a 12-passenger van, burning east along I-10. I’m on my way back home from the church Summer Camp where I’ve been incarcerated with scores of screaming teenagers since early Monday morning.

I spent the week before this getting the van laid on, hunting down last-minute campers, and preparing things so that my dad, my wife and our kids would be ready for my week-long absence, as well as gathering the minutia I figured a 49-year-old man would need during a week of — well, I guess it’s not exactly “hell-raising” if we’re going to be at church camp. Still, my list of minutia included a small propane stove with coffee-making accessories, a stash of cigars I expect to E&E into the woods to enjoy (since smoking is prohibited on the camp grounds), plus a big box of chemical heating pads for aching back muscles.

I didn’t exactly mean to volunteer for this. But, I did in fact volunteer for it. So, I suppose I ought to quit my … er … um … ‘complaining’ (see, I’m already practicing to spend the week at church camp with a bunch of teenagers).

What happened is this: A few months ago, I promised the 22-year-old woman, who was going along as a counselor for the girls, that I’d go with her if we couldn't find a younger guy to shepherd the boys. We only have five girls and one boy attending camp, but the  22-year-old refused to go without another adult, and none of the other college-aged kids in our church could get time off from work. So … I’m the guy driving a 12-passenger van with the rear seat removed for added cargo space, a young female counselor and six teens. And, I have no idea what’s in store for me up at camp, as I write this — though, by the time you read this, it will all be over.

One thing all this does have me thinking about is KIDS.

Particularly young boys, around nine or ten — like the rowdies in the Sunday school class I teach. Boys who are dying to go to camp, but aren't yet old enough, which is something I’m working to rectify for next year.

These 3rd and 4th graders may be too young for this year’s camp, but they aren’t too young to swing hammers, work saws, and turn screws when we build Sunday school projects. (Can’t tell this class is taught by an old SF Engineer Sergeant, can you? No doily projects for us, buddy. We stick to wood and hardware! That’s the only thing that keeps these “Wild Men of Borneo”, as I call them, from tearing apart the classroom. LOL   And, please realize: No slight is intended to those who hail from Borneo; these are all great kids.)

These boys are just that. BOYS. They love adventure. They crave it; they seek it; and, when adventure isn’t a part of their real lives — they invent it. Which brings me to the point of this post:

Guys Read

According to their website, Guys Read is “a web-based literacy program for boys … Our mission is to help boys become self-motivated, lifelong readers.”

I first stumbled across Guys Read when I bought one of their anthologies for my son at a school book fair. This anthology, Guys Read: THRILLER, holds ten short stories, packed with action and adventure — a real hit with my son and his friends.

Some of the stories, such as Ghost Vision Glasses, by Patrick Carman, are spooky and fall into the horror category. Others, such as Gennifer Choldenko’s Snake Mafia, are pure mystery-suspense. The Double Eagle Has Landed, by Anthony Horowitz, is a perfect blend of action, suspense and comedy that had me laughing (and biting my nails) right alongside my son, while Walter Dean Myers’ Pirate provided a quick and troubling, blinding flash of insight concerning life as a teen pirate off the coast of Mogadishu.

All these stories have young male protagonists who face daunting odds, force their way (sometimes with second and third thoughts) through a rousing adventure, and finally find their way out the other side.

Guys Read website says: “… research … shows that boys will read — if they are given reading that interests them.” And, I have to say: "I couldn't agree MORE!"

Guys Read: THRILLER definitely delivers. But, the site offers more, saying:

“… the biggest part of this site is the collection of book 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.”

 This old soldier's suggestion?

If you know a young guy, similar to one of my “Wild Men of Borneo”, check out Guys Read. You may be opening up a whole new world of adventure for him!

See you in two weeks (assuming I survive Church Camp without being burned at the stake!),
— Dix


  1. Robert Arthur's anthologies of his own stories were aimed at younger readers even though few of them were published as being marketed for them. And I'll have to check out the Thriller anthology!

  2. Dixon, I compliment you. I bitterly complain about boys reading little more than sports scores, but you offer a solution. I'm thinking of using your article to seed a follow-up on Sunday.

  3. Dixon,
    Thanks for your informative article. My grandson is an avid reader, but it's mostly history and war info about weapons and battles. He's twelve, but I'm going to look into Boys Read. I'm not a boy, but as a retired teacher of fourth-fifth grade students as well as secondary, I enjoy kids' literature. Good luck!

  4. I couldn't agree more- one of the tricks of teaching middle and high school students is to find material that girls, boys, and trickiest of all, both, will ejoy,

  5. Oops! I was in a hurry and renamed Guys Read to Boys Read.

  6. Leigh: Feel free, buddy!

    And, Fran: I sympathize with your grandson. When I was a kid I loved history books, particularly those about WWI and WWII. Ask him if he ever read a book about the Great Jonestown Flood. It's a great read, and the book that made me a history lover for life!!

    Janice: I think you're dead on target! The only teaching I do these days, is in Sunday school, but that's why I try my best to include an obstacle course (created out on the playground) or construction projects in my lesson plans.


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