Books for Boys

A few weeks ago I heard from an old friend — the indefatigable Leanna Landsmann, a woman I had worked with about twenty years ago on an educational project focused on “students at risk.” Leanna is now writing a column that is syndicated by United Features called, “A+ ADVICE: The Inside Scoop on School.” Each column responds to questions sent in by parents. Leanna asked for my thoughts to this question:

My fourth-grade son, Javin, must read five books for the school’s summer reading challenge. The problem is he hates reading. His teacher suggested “graphic novels.” I discovered that they are really comics, those things my teacher took away when I was a kid! He is starting to read them, but they really aren’t “books.” Will these help or hurt him?

Lately there’s a movement afoot about boys reading — or, I should say, the problem of boys not reading. Sometimes I get lumped into that equation, partly, I gather, because I’m an ex-boy myself. (That’s the full extent of my expertise, I assure you.) So I gave Leanna a long, rambling reply — in brief: let Javin read whatever he wants, so long as he is reading! — and, about three weeks later, the column appeared (to read it in full, just click here).

To brag about Leanna for minute: She was previously editor and publisher of Instructor magazine, and president of TIME For Kids. She was inducted into the EdPress Hall of Fame, educational publishing’s highest honor. I mean to say: She totally rocks and it’s amazing she even talks to me.

At age 27, I was a promotion manager at Scholastic and we hired Leanna for a large, important project. It was ridiculous, because I was sort of “in charge” of this great editor, even though I was dumb as a stump compared to her. Leanna kindly played along, did a great job and, on the side, taught me how to do mine. We’ve been friends ever since . . . cheering from the sidelines . . . even if we do let ten years slip by without a hello.

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