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Warning: Our Boys Don’t Like To Read

While standing in the grocery store line, watching a woman begin writing her check only AFTER she was told the total, I began to peruse the check out stand for a magazine article (because I was going to be in line until Sept 2009) and noticed the cover article of Time magazine, “The Myth About Boys”.  I don’t really know what I expected when pulled the magazine off the shelf, and then opening the thin glossy pages to begin reading what DAVID VON DREHLE has written about something I love dearly: boys.

He writes, “Statistics collected over two decades show an alarming decline in the performance of America’s boys–in some respects, a virtual free fall… Boys in the fourth, eighth and 12th grades all score better–though not dramatically better–on math tests than did the comparable boys of 1990. Reading, however, is a problem. The standardized NAEP test, known as the nation’s report card, indicates that by the senior year of high school, boys have fallen nearly 20 points behind their female peers. That’s bad, not because girls are ahead but because too many boys are leaving school functionally illiterate.”

I went from blissed to pissed at the speed of light.

It’s a great article, but I am thinking David isn’t raising a boy.  The problems I have encountered (and here I go) are the WOMEN teaching in the grade schools.  Are you shocked that I should dis’ my sistas? Well school system YOU SUCK at providing interesting reading material to boys.  I HAVE read your books with my son, only to turn to him and say, “This story is really boring.”  But then, I was raised on Moby Dick, The Three Musketeers, David Copperfield, Trinity and I could go on, but I am a girl and found growing up that these books (and many other male-based reading) riveting. These books set my life in motion to aspire to be a writer.  Now, my son gets books on Knitting, Basket Weaving, Troubled Girls – where are the classics? Your reading materials BORE ME, and thus bore the boys, who are doers.  Books need to make their heart race and fire the imagination.

Add to the problem that in my son’s grade school there was only ONE male teacher.  All the females I encountered despised boys for normal boy behavior, which typically is the inability to sit still. Most of you that have been reading my blog since its conception on AOL many years ago have watched my battles with the teachers and the school system.  I have brought my 79 year old mother with me to the parent-teacher conferences, and she responds, “I don’t understand why they teach this way,” almost every time.

I had Brian’s fourth grade teacher say, “Brian is a good boy, but I worry that he won’t become anything when he grows up.  Have you thought of Ritalin?” Have you ever thought that a redhead could kill you?  I wanted to reach across that desk and slap her back to being a nice person who cares about kids.  How about you retire?  Later I was to find out that she was a probation teacher, one that was passed to different schools because of her poor performance as a teacher.  She was disorganized, mostly auditory and a boys worst nightmare.  Can you imagine if I was a different person?  I might have thought to put my son on drugs.

But luckily for me I was raised around boys.  I love the way they look at the world.  I love working with them in business, and I love how they can fight and become best friends.  We need for them to do well in school.  I don’t want them sitting still.  I want them exploring, building, examining and being BOYS.

So lets quit F******G them up in school shall we?  In the 1960s we had a bevy of male teachers because it was a way to avoid being sent to Viet Nam.  All my greatest teachers were men.  I am hearing some female teachers scream now.
Brian did once have a terrific female teacher in 5th grade, which brought him up two grades in reading.  She was a corporate trainer, who I worked with at ATG, that landed a teaching job at Brian’s school.  I specifically requested her.  Being that I too have been a corporate trainer, I understand what it is like to teach those who don’t want to be in your classroom.  I knew she would be great.  She was.  She understood all the different styles of learning and structured her classroom accordingly.  The school district should have modeled their classrooms after her.  Brian adored her and she understood boys.

Instead, the school let her go because she did not have tenure, because female teachers out on maternity leave needed to come back.

One of those teachers who had to come back turned out to be Brian’s 6th grade teacher.  She and I were off to the races from day one.  Mess with the boys I love, and I am your worst nightmare.  Her scrap booking assignments are a crock of gluing crap and the parents hate it.  My email responses to Brian’s 6th grade teacher’s “Brian isn’t…” emails burn like gasoline on her desktop.  She was mean to all the boys and I disliked her condescending tone.

To counter her belittling nature I tell my son  “You are brilliant.  You are funny.  You are going to do amazing things with your life.  I am proud of you.”   I am constantly telling his friends what I admire about them too.  George swims like a fish, and is one of the kindest boys I know.  Alex is brilliant and draws like Picasso.  Andrew is hilarious, sweet and adorable.  Daniel is a great boxer and should find something safe to punch besides my furniture.  Maur is interesting and polite, while Yuma his brother is downright adorable.  Max needs understanding and Shawn needs attention.  I  adore them.

And they all hate reading because of the teachers that have made them feel stupid.

What does this say about our school system?

I am looking forward to Junior high for Brian and his friends.  They have PE, which is physical activity … and boys need this.  Classes last no more than 50 minutes and there is walking after.  There are male teachers and activities suited for boys.  I hope to see Brian and his friends loose their negative feelings about going to school and reading.  Hopefully there will be some classics in here somewhere?

Am I dreaming?

David seems to think there is hope.

We shall see.  in the meantime warn all Santa Rosa teachers there is a redhead mom moving through the school system fighting for boys. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Until next time-


Links from Kevin Chavous’ site:

Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP

Center for Education Reform (CER)www.edreform.com

Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO)www.baeo.org

National Alliance for Public Charter Schoolswww.publiccharters.org

Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options (HCREO)www.hcreo.org

Alliance for School Choicewww.allianceforschoolchoice.org

Progressive Policy Institute (PPI)www.ppionline.org

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About Catherine, the redhead mom blogger

Catherine’s hopes to make this blog a safe place for thyroid sufferers to come laugh and share the funnier side of thyroid disease while raising awareness around the world. She is a published author, known for her humorous speeches on finding your dream life and blogging for fun and profit. Catherine writes about her dream life at, 8 Women Dream and several online marketing publications. She would also like to be invited to speak at TED about her observations. Catherine posts on M/W/F. Join me on Google+ rapieress@aol.com

16 Responses to Warning: Our Boys Don’t Like To Read

  1. Angela August 10, 2007 at 7:00 am #

    If only there were an army of you PO’d redhead Moms out there to set the school system straight on the REAL problems with the system, especially the REAL drug problem.

    Wise woman you are for recognizing what the lil fellers in your son’s life need to hear, too. I do this with my grandsons, too.

  2. David August 10, 2007 at 7:31 am #

    I am a red, I took and passed, first time, my CBest test so that now I could teach in California, once I get my college degree/paper saying that I am smart. BUT I am reluctant to teach anything below HS because of the possibility of false sexual allegations by girls. If they don’t like you, you’re screwed. Fired and probable prison. Don’t want it, don’t need it. But I grew up a voracious reader. Twenty Years After, Vicompte de Bragelonne, lots of Sci Fi stuff. And Readers Digest of course. I really like your writing. ;D

  3. Paula The Surf Mom August 10, 2007 at 11:39 am #

    I am a teacher and I have to agree with you on this one… the classics have been removed from the curriculum so we can coach kids to past the mandated no child left behind proficiency tests

  4. Dawn August 10, 2007 at 1:52 pm #

    I being a fellow redhead with a 10 year old boy know how you feel. Before last year my son hated reading. Then we transfered schools, and he had the most awesome male teacher ever. I got to chose the books my son read. As did my son. He had his in school reading they had to do and work on.. but all the extra we got to pick. My son devoured every Harry Potter book, and the Protector of the Small books, as well as the Aragon books. All well above his grade level. I am certain that if he had a different teacher they would have held him back. All in all my son read over 100 books durring the school year, and got an award at school. He went from hating it to loving it. I think his library card has scorch marks on it. Start at home and get them interested in a topic find books on it.. then have them brought into the class room. It will become infectious as your child talks about the books to other kids. Then the teachers will have no choice. That is how my son changed the 3rd grade reading list. Good luck!

  5. Brent August 10, 2007 at 9:24 pm #

    What a great rant :)

    I saw this in the store and was wondering what it was about. very informative.


  6. Blog Antagonist August 11, 2007 at 9:40 pm #

    Hi. Also a redhead, also a Mom of boys, also read that article, also got completely pissed off, and also think that schools are failing our boys, and also think that female teachers have little to no understanding of how to motivate, inspire, and teach boys.

    My boys go back to school Monday and I’m already poised for battle.

  7. Aldon Hynes August 12, 2007 at 1:03 am #

    Earlier this week, I heard David McCullough talking about education. He has written some great books about John Adams and Harry Truman. During his speech, he said, “We should not require students to read something we wouldn’t want to read.”

    I hated to read when I was in high school. I love to read now. I think your rant is right on the money and I think you’ve got a two time Pulitzer Prize winner on your side.

  8. Alexa August 12, 2007 at 7:28 pm #

    Excellent, excellent post! I bet you forgot all about the pain in the ass slacker in front of you. My pet peeve are truly those people who have a cart full and don’t have either their cc run through the scan during the checkout or pre writing the check. All enough to set me off. Now about the schools, we are in serious trouble and I do not see an easy solution. The thought of graduating illiterates, kills me. So, is it up to the parents to give them good books because we can’t take on the school system solo? Hum…

  9. Nathan Ketsdever August 12, 2007 at 9:48 pm #

    It rocks that you’re so encouraging and positive with your son!

    Alternatively, I think that 75% of teachers get a bad name for the 25% of teachers who should be doing something else or at least focusing more on their jobs.

  10. Thor August 13, 2007 at 2:53 pm #

    When I was I boy reading boy’s literature was my drug of choice. Tom Swift and Bob Moran were among my boyhood heroes. Not great literature but it does not have to be in order to be an enjoyable pastime.

    I worry about how it’s getting more and more normal that kids don’t read – like ever! That would have seemed strange among my boyhood friends.

    I think one possible strategy for interesting a boy in the written word is through comics. They are getting more and more sophisticated and an art form in them selves.

    Or you could print Moby Dick from here: http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/2701
    And make him read the classics to you (sell the TV) untill he likes them.

  11. Catherine August 14, 2007 at 2:20 am #

    Well tomorrow is Back-to-school for us, and I appreciate all of your great comments and ideas.

    I really loved hearing from the guys… what got you reading etc. I have a nephew going into his senior year and my brother has tried just about everything to keep him interested in school. It has been hard for my brother, since he loves to read and is brilliant. He sees so much promise in his son, but his son hates school. My nephew is such a kind, sweet kid … I don’t get what is happening there.

    Brian actually read a Readers Digest while waiting to get his hair cut on Saturday. The whole edition was on comedians and jokes. He read it from cover to cover and would not put it down. He chose to read it over playing video games while getting his hair cut. I kept pinching myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming… so your point Thor is well taken.

    I know part of this reading problem is pure disinterest on the side of boys. I am wondering how this has happened.

    Don’t tell me it’s the distractions at home, because we rarely watch TV in our home. Brian’s video game and Internet access is restricted too – esp during the school year. It cannot be said that my ex and I don’t create a “learning environment”. I got so fed up last year that I sat with him every night and made him trade off reading with me. I’d read two pages aloud – he’d read two pages aloud. This is how I discovered that so much of what Brian gets to read is B O R I N G.

    His second, fourth and sixth grade female teachers seemed to hate boys or dislike all children in general. I was baffled that they were teachers.  I made it clear from the beginning that I wouldn’t tolerate verbal abuse towards my son. I couldn’t believe I had to even have THAT conversation with a teacher.

    My ex and I spent a great deal of volunteer time in Brian’s fourth grade class, because I distrusted the teacher being alone with the kids. I am shocked that the system allows teachers who verbally demean kids in front of their peers. Sometimes other parents treated me like I was crazy, until their child ended up in the class, and the child came home crying because the teacher told her “To shut-up and quit being so stupid”. I looked at the parent and said, “Better you than me, I’d be on the front page of the newspaper … in jail for threatening a teacher…”

    I could go on, but Brian starts Middle School tomorrow and I have every hope he will love learning and find his direction. At his school an eighth grade class spends a year designing and constructing a bridge across the classroom. Brian has already decided that he wants to continue doing well in Math so he can get in that class.

    Here we go…


  12. A rational blonde August 15, 2007 at 3:44 am #

    A friend forwarded me your blog and I thought that I would take a look, even though I generally feel that most bloggers are completely pretentious and full of themselves, unfortunately you have done absolutely nothing to change my view of this… As someone who worked in the public school system for years and who has many friends and family members who still do I see your thoughts as off base and irrational. We did read the classics in school, but not until high school and certainly not in 6th grade! Taking a group of boys fishing and reading them Moby Dick for the school day is no way to advance their education. As far as these boys not liking to read, perhaps we need to look towards home rather than school… When was the last time that you encouraged Brian to read an age appropriate book? (Moby Dick is not appropriate for a 6th grader by the way.) I am intimately familiar with the 6th grade reading list at the majority of schools in Santa Rosa and the majority of books that these students read are either gender neutral or geared towards boys. I think that you need to stop placing the blame on the school system and it’s teachers, but look inward instead. What kind of example are you setting for your son? Are you creating an environment at home that is conducive to learning? Although you may hate the scrap booking assignments that Brian’s teacher assigned, I would be willing to bet that they served a greater purpose and that students actually learned something from them. There are multiple different learning styles and unfortunately not every assignment can be perfect for every child, however most teachers attempt to give a variety of assignments that will benefit all of the different learning styles in their class. As far as your child’s teacher worrying about what he wouldn’t be anything when he grows up, teachers don’t normally say this to a parent unless they are truly concerned, so I would look into the home on this one to see what is creating this perception. Personally, I think that you are full of sh** and need to get a grip. Sure many kids hate school, and everyone gets a teacher that they don’t like once in a while. I know from personal experience however that it is often the teachers that we dislike the least that teach us the most. I also believe that 90% of a child’s education happens at home, so perhaps you should think about what Brian is learning from a mother who is so willing to openly bash educational professionals who have devoted their lives to teaching children, regardless of the fact that they have to put up with bi*ch*s like you and are grossly underpaid for the work that they do…

  13. Catherine August 15, 2007 at 4:46 am #

    Brian pulled all male teachers except for his art teacher for 7th grade. I loved them all … enthusiastic … interesting … full of passion for teaching. I have heared great things about his middle school and i am so excited for him. It will be interesting to watch Brian learn under these male teachers. The art teacher is amazing – she is widely known for what she teaches her students. I am excited for him… very excited.

  14. reasonablerobinson August 15, 2007 at 9:41 pm #

    A* (will male lecturer do?)

  15. Nathalie August 16, 2007 at 7:55 am #

    Wow, I’m glad I didn’t go through that school system :) I had both great male and female teachers, who were all very patient with me (I had lack concentrating) but the last teacher I had (a male actually 😉 ) thought that this lack of concentration meant I was stupid and wanted to send me to the lowest grade at secondary school. With in two years they placed me on the highest level, because I was a lot smarter than they’d expected.
    I just think that the general problem at schools these days is that due to lack of time and teachers, they don’t have time anymore to actually get to know the children they are teaching. They don’t see their weak and strong points anymore, nor are they trying to improve those points.
    As for my mother (single mom, might I add) she also sat down with me to teach me things her way – math’s, grammar, reading books…if she hadn’t done that I wouldn’t be where I am now. Mom’s who actually care about their children’s education are the best :)

    PS thanks for visiting my site!

  16. Red August 23, 2007 at 9:57 pm #

    Another redhead, and mom of a boy who loves to read, but not the ~pre-qualified AR approved list~ material, because why? it’s BORRRIIINNNGGG. My son has since switched to reading the classics, as he now has a choice. In public school, they wouldn’t allow him to read certain books because they were too far above his AR range, or too far below it. I say , if the child enjoys it, and its good material, for pete’s sake, let him read it! After 4 yrs of dealing with my son in public school, I took him out, and am now homeschooling him and his two older sisters. I have been more than disgusted on how they look at the normal activity level of a young boy. My son was also ~teacher diagnosed~ as needing Ritalin, ” or SOMEthing, for heaven’s sake, that boy runs us ragged, and we just can’t TOLERATE that sort of energy”. Which is ridiculous ~ they just didn’t want to have to deal with the fact that he was so far ahead of his peers that he was bored STIFF with what they were offering in the curriculum.
    Anyway, I could rant a whole blog entry and then some about this ~ my suggestion, however, is to read a fantastic book, called A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-first Century. This book can be found on amazon, or on ebay, & there are various links to it online as well.


    Sorry, this is not an advertisement, it’s just a book that changed forever the way I view education, ESPECIALLY public education. I even blogged on this subjest myself ~ http://redhead83402.blogspot.com/2007_08_18_archive.html
    Best of luck on this, each of us has to deal with it somehow, & I do believe it will continue to get worse, what with the violent media, gaming & advertisement, all geared at our young boys & young men. (And THEN you have all the negative media towards men on the sitcoms & etc, don’t even get me STARTED on THAT subject!!)

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