Boys’ Literacy Part 3 of 4
Starting the study
The following year I heard about a meeting in Sudbury where teachers could find out about a research opportunity. I got myself invited and heard for the first time about the 3-year boys’ literacy studies that would be funded. They would all be based on strategies from Me Read, No Way, and it was easy to see I might be able to get some guidance to pursue more action research on “Help make it a habit.”
The other strategy that really appealed to me was “Have the right stuff,” because we did not. As a middle school we had very few resources for students reading below grade level. I will never forget the novel “Mice at Centre Ice” – because it was the only text that we had that the boys liked. The dollar signs lit up in my eyes just like in a cartoon. What if we could get money to establish a leveled book room at our school.
As I said at our recent presentation, as a teacher I was extremely interested in our first strategy, but I was super-motivated by the second!
I wrote up a proposal which was accepted and away we went. There are some great memories from that time. Our whole staff got involved in attending a mini-publishers’ fair after school. We had sample books spread out all over the staff room with feedback sheets for the teachers to fill out. The publishers were fantastic, and brought their own lists of Books For Boys. Our librarian was also a great help and identified which materials library staff could access at a discount via the board’s suppliers, so we could get the most books with our grant.
We went from having a tiny room with Grade 7 and 8 novel sets to having the entire back of our school library set up as a leveled book area filled with beautiful books, teacher guides and other resources. We followed all the advice we could find and purchased a lot of non-fiction sports and science-oriented texts, two different series of hi-interest/lo-vocab novels dealing with issues of interest to teens, best-seller series books, and much more. Over the years, our spec ed and DLRT teachers along with the librarian (one day a week…) have continued to fine tune organization of the area and have added many new, appropriate and engaging books to the library itself.
As for the study… We went crazy in year one. Staff came up with a way to randomly identify 100 students based on class, grade and gender, and we tested them all twice using Flynt Cooter RIC as the tool. Two classes ran the Reading Challenge and were compared to the school as a whole.
The boys and also girls in the Challenge did move forward ahead of the others. But our most amazing results related to Grade 8 boys. We believe we identified a developmental peak of readiness that enabled large numbers of the boys to move forward with their reading. The test results were unbelievable, and crossed over from class to class regardless of teacher or program. One young man with an identification as LD, who I had previously taught, came to me by chance for both his pre- and post-challenge tests and advanced from Grade 4 to Grade 9. I honestly would have been skeptical if I hadn’t sat with him myself as he accomplished this. This is an important consideration when educating boys and taking advantage of readiness skills and alerted us to be aware of more of these windows of opportunity for boys (example: grade 1 new year- European studies).