________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 19 . . . . May 23, 2003


Even Hockey Players Read: Boys, Literacy and Learning.

David Booth.
Markham, ON: Pembroke, 2002.
135 pp., pbk., $18.95.

Subject Headings:
Boys-Books and reading.


Review by Deborah L. Begoray.

*** /4


“That a boy never meets a book that pulls him inside until he can barely breathe should not happen in our print rich society. We have so many gifted writers helping us to raise our boys alongside our girls as thoughtful, aware, articulate and compassionate citizens.

David Booth has once again provided a readable, thoughtful look at a current literacy issue, this time a look at the declining involvement of boys with books both reading and writing and how the trend might be countered. Even Hockey Players Read makes a worthwhile contribution to a teacher’s and parent’s understanding of the literacy needs of boys. As with other Booth titles (for example Reading and Writing in the Middle Years), he places most of his emphasis on practical ideas for the classroom and the home but provides also a number of excerpts from theoretical sources to support his ideas. Even Hockey Players Read presents an overview of reading and writing strategies Booth judges to be most helpful in promoting the authentic interaction of boys with books.

     Even Hockey Players Read has five parts: Understanding the Literacy Lives of Boys, Helping Boys Become Print Powerful, Assisting Boys in Becoming Writers, Structuring Literacy Events for Boys, Building a Literacy Community, an extensive bibliography of boy friendly books and an index. “Understanding the Literacy Lives of Boys” provides a general introduction to the issue of boys’ literacy (I note with interest that Booth employs this more inclusive term rather than “reading and writing” which he has used in past books). Booth deals here with issues such as the general observation of teachers that girls like to read and boys do not, fathers who read only the newspaper, and boys who prefer time with television and computers instead of with books. “Helping Boys Become Print Powerful” looks at the needs of boys to learn more about comprehension strategies from teachers who must be aware of what boys find to be motivational. “Assisting Boys in Becoming Writers” looks at giving boys an opportunity to examine their life stories, to be involved in drama and to write poetry. “Structuring Literacy Events for Boys” looks at modeling, fostering inquiry projects and assessing boys’ work. “Building a Literacy Community” examines the role of connecting school and home and gathering resources for boys to develop literacy. Appendices include a lengthy list of interview questions to probe boys’ literacy habits and attitudes (e.g. Are reading tests fair? What section of a bookstore would you visit first?), a long list of resources (e.g. Picture Books for Boys, Books for Older Boy Readers) and an index.

     The book is organized by headings and subheadings. Subheadings are mostly a list of boys’ ideas about literacy (e.g. We never get to choose the books in school). Pages, although they are print dense, do have a number of photographs of boys’ reading and other print marginalia such as excerpts from Booth’s diary about his son Jay, and from other books about boys’ literacy. The book does not contain any colour, but the publishers have tried to use a variety of fonts and white space to try to make the book more visually appealing (with only limited success).

     Even Hockey Players Read does have a few other shortcomings. While Booth has included a small section on computers and fleeting mentions of reading on a screen, he does not look at the new literacies involved in creating websites with print and images, in following links, or generally in using boys’ fascination with videogames as a kind of literacy (and also as a way into more conventional reading and writing). Booth does not discuss viewing and representing as new language arts in most Canadian language arts curricula which are particularly appealing to boys. Finally, Booth does not acknowledge that there are a great many girls who would also benefit from greater choice in materials and more active approaches to literacy teaching. It must also be noted that, while the book makes a great many suggestions about ways to involve more boys in the literacy club, a number of the ideas concern good literacy teaching addressing all students as individuals with a variety of needs.


Deborah L. Begoray is an associate professor in language and literacy in the Faculty of Education at the University of Victoria. She is currently researching in the area of multiple literacies, visual literacy and the use of literacy in aboriginal and health contexts.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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