06/25/14 — Library program geared toward getting boys to pick up a book

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Library program geared toward getting boys to pick up a book

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 25, 2014 1:46 PM

Brothers Jaylin and Darius Hinton like to read but admit it can be a challenge.

"Being focused, because sometimes when I read I get distracted," said 11-year-old Jaylin.

"Sometimes when I read, I get frustrated and I get the words jumbled up," shrugged his 7-year-old sibling.

The boys haven't given up on the activity, with the fifth-grader favoring chapter books and Darius partial to the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" books.

Their mom, Abby Hinton, could use a little help encouraging reading with her boys, especially during the summer break.

So when she and husband, Chris, were at Wayne County Public Library recently and learned about the "Guys Read" program, they immediately investigated.

"That would be great," she said of the option. "I'm going to be bringing them to the library at least twice a week.'

Heath Radford, technical services assistant at the library, leads the program for boys in grades 3-5, which meets once a month.

The idea came about several months ago, after he worked with some Boy Scouts fulfilling requirements for a reading project. Radford said he thought other young boys could benefit, so wrote a proposal for "Guys Read," a program developed by New York Foundation for the Arts.

The concept reflected the national statistics that shows boys have more trouble engaging in the habit of reading. "Guys Read" is designed to connect them with texts they will want to read.

That may not necessarily turn out to be great literature, Radford said, since young boys often prefer non-fiction, humor, information, comics and graphic novels.

"One of the things I have been trying to instill in them is reading short stories and magazines," he said.

"Each meeting is going to be something different. Like for May, one of the kids told me he's in martial arts. We pulled from that to have a Ninja Day."

At its most recent meeting, which coincided with Memorial Day, Radford stacked high a "box fort" of cardbord boxes and incorporated stories about soldiers, battle and war.

Radford has a plan for each meeting, while keeping it loosely structured to allow the youth to set the tone.

"What we do in each meeting is if we have any new boys, introduce themselves," he said. "They get to eat -- that's their big thing. They love to eat.

"Afterward we sit down, bring up any new business, upcoming events that we're trying to plan."

And reading. There's always reading in some form or another.

"We have them talk about what books they're reading that week -- Do you like the book? What's your favorite character?" he said. "I have got a couple of avid readers but some don't read as much. The boys have readily played off each other and welcomed each other."

The group has been meeting since January, at which time it established a name, "Lucky Readers" and forged a charter, which includes all the important stuff, Radford said -- "that we guys will tell each other when we like a book and tell each other when we don't; that we guys will not feel bad about putting down a book we don't like, but that we'll give another book a chance; we never will quiz or test; and we will have food at every meeting."

Weather-related interruptions during the winter presented some challenges in turnout for the program, but Radford said he hopes that will change over the summer as "Guys Read" continues to meet. But reading interest among the targeted age group is not the only obstacle.

"Those kids are a hard age to reach," said Melissa Sheldon, public relations coordinator the library. "They can't drive. You have to reach the parents as much as the kids."

Christopher Tann, 10, a fourth-grader at North Drive Elementary, showed up for the first time at the "Ninja Day" session.

"I wanted to come to the library and see what other people are doing here and read more," he said. "My EOG (end-of-grade test) is coming up and I need to catch up on reading."

His aunt, Sharon Richardson, was also interested in the program.

"I hope it will keep him interested and make him want to read more," she said.

For more information on the free program, call the children's department at 919-735-1824.