Thursday, February 11, 2010

Where the Boys Are (Not)

The Matron is currently teaching a basic writing and research skills course, one that constitutes the bread and butter of her English faculty existence.

Graduating from this particular college? First, you must pass English 1009.

Merrick: first you must learn to read! That seems like a separate story, but is it? A steady fretter about her youngest, the Matron has long worried that her son's disdain for all things academic is simply setting him in the middle of the male pack.

And just how is that pack doing up the road--the boys in college?

Please do return to the topic of English 1009. In her online sections of this class there are 57 registered students. Of those 57 students, just 14 turned in rough drafts of the first paper. It's okay to gasp here. She did and had to steady herself on a desk.

Of those 14, guess how many were women?

The ONE man to turn in a rough draft is an adult student pushing forty. The Matron has barely heard from the 18-24 group. The English 1009 Online Discussion Board?

Courtney to Elizabeth; Brandee writes to Deirdre; Sandy asks Elle a question; Veronica to Brittany (one of the thirty); Katie queries Catherine.

You get it.

This trend is not simply anecdotal.


Scrolling down a decade to the college student in the making, the Matron has been scheming for ways around Merrick's deep tissue resistance to reading--to touching a book, even.

The person to finally make the most significant breakthrough to date is a family member about whom she is not allowed to blog, HE WHO CANNOT BE NAMED (because the neighbors are watching) and the only person in the family advancing to a regional scientific competition and currently the proud possessor of grades that only include straight A+s. . . . (that's a plus, folks, not that she's bragging? well, sorta). . . .

Merrick has been introduced to the magazine version of Think Geek.

This magazine features gadgetry and gear beyond all measure! Light sabers, pepper shakers in the form of R2D2, mini Darth Vaders, lights, lasers, mini-cameras, key holders, spy cameras, thermometers . . . you name it!

Yesterday, not once, but several times, the Matron came into the kitchen to find Merrick at the table absorbed with the turning of pages.

"Mom? Does this mean fowty dollaws to buy?"

! Yes! He now knows some numbers!

"Mom? This wowd is 'sale' wight? Does that mean we can buy it?"

Merrick can read. Still below grade level. Still stwuggling. But the child has discovered the world of shopping by catalogs and cannot be restrained. Better than nothing. The Matron is thinking of this breakthrough sorta like her son's own little rough draft, turned in.

24 comments:

Kizz said...

Next up instruction manuals and those books they publish to teach you how to beat certain video games. You knew he'd find "his connection" (as one of my third grade friends says about her reading) and now he has. There's no stopping him now!

cndymkr / jean said...

Think Geek rocks.

My son fell in love with reading only after he discovered comic books. Because, let's face it, there are lots of pictures and action and heros and villians. He's now 14 and loves to read.

*m* said...

Fabulous. My boys LOVE the ThinkGeek catalog, to the degree that I suggested their grandma give them a gift certificate there for Xmas. Huge hit.

Other favorites: Oriental Trading Company, and (God help me) SkyMall.

Watch out; he will be wanting a credit card momentarily.

kmkat said...

Yep, all it takes is the right subject matter. Yay, Mewwick!

Laurie said...

I am goiung through a 15 ye old who refuses to write. I am not sure how to get him to care that everything he holds dear to him is going to be removed from his life-both choirs, the musical, and thought of sports, because he's GOING TO FLUNK 10th GRADE!! ALL because he refuses to write term papers. ::::sobs:::: Anyone have any suggestions?

Minnesota Matron said...

That's too bad, Laurie! Is there a fear behind his not wanting to write? I'd investigate his reasoning. Is it a particular class or all? Has a teacher criticized his writing? Feed us more info!

Daisy said...

My 4th graders adore the Current and Oriental Trading catalogs. Maybe I can make a math lesson out of it: how many in a unit? A gross? How much for one, if you could buy it individually?

Suburban Correspondent said...

Many boys take a much more practical approach to reading than do girls - they need a concrete reason to puzzle out the words. Apparently, you've found Merrick's.

Although, really? He's not that old, for a non-reading boy. My oldest was 9 before he was able to string those sounds together. He's in college right now, studying Arabic, for heaven's sake. His strengths are English and writing courses. For Merrick's sake (and your own), fuhgeddaboudit for a bit. He's bright, he'll get it. Many of these older boys who are turned off academics I believe had them pushed on them too early (poor sentence there, but you know what I mean!).

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Have you tried the DK style books of ancient weaponry, all things Star Wars, that type of thing? Those were always beloved by the boys in my house.

Jennifer said...

I feel your pain. My 9-year-old is finally reading ( he just finished reading me a chapter of The Lightning Thief), and I am so relieved. Though I don't necessarily think that what works here will work for you, I thought I'd mention that we used the Magic Tree House books for awhile just to get him interested. Wizards and magic go a long way at our house.

Our deal was this: he and I would go to a coffee shop, I would buy him something to drink, and we would take turns reading until the book was done, chapter by chapter. We could usually finish a book in a couple of hours. IF he actually read every other chapter to me and we finished the book, I would buy him a pastry or brownie or whatever. It took a year until I could get him to read a book on his own. That was second grade.

Now in third grade, he'll read Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and those DK books Jenn mentioned. He loves science and gadgetry, and...yep, catalogs.

Good luck. It's a hard road, but you're definitely on the right path.

Lippy said...

I also suggest the DK readers, they have some great Star Wars books. The magic tree house are also a hit, as well as Junie B. Jones books(I know some don't like her because she has an attitude). If he is into gadgets we found a book mark timer at Barnes and Noble, you can use it to count the time up or do a count down. The book mark has saved us from endlessly answering how long our six year old has read.

kcinnova said...

My oldest loved to read... now he only reads for his classes. He chose AP Literature over AP Language because he hates grammar, yet argues with me because he doesn't know it and claims no one taught him that stuff." ARRGGHH!)

Glad you found a key to your boy's heart!

Catherine said...

Laurie,

Have you tried to get input from your son's teacher?

In elementary school, my younger son (A+ student)used to HATE writing, and I would get very upset when teachers would say that boys just don't write as much as girls. Eventually, he had a fantastic teacher who made everything click. It turns out that he would block for what he had to write about, and her technique of discussing the topic (brainstorming aloud - to death, it seemed to me) was what opened the door for my son. This teacher was the first one to help him over this hurdle. Maybe, as for reading, the solution is in finding something that he WANTS to write about.... letters to the editor, a review on a video game for the school newspaper, an advertisement for selling his bicycle, or something related to a hobby.

Good luck.

Shellie said...

The best advice I ever received was to find ANYTHING that they were interested in and they would likey read it. My youngest was only interested in weapons and military vehicles so we bought those encyclopedia type books with pictures. Its not what they read, but that they do read. He is still picky about the books he reads, but he reads often and well; that is a win in my book.
Thanks for sharing your world...

jenn said...

I foresee the Matron spending many online hours submitting catalog requests...

MidLifeMama said...

A few thoughts: More women graduate from college than men because there are more women IN college than men. There are more women alive than men. You can see the trend. That being said, as a college administrator who works with enrollment management, whose world revolves around who comes to college, who doesn't, who succeeds in college, who doesn't and why, it has become very clear that college students in the 18-24 age range HATE READING. It is beyond discouraging. I worked with a reading group last year attached to one of our English 101 classes, and did everything in my power to engage them in reading. Read whatever you want, and report back. It was haaaaaard. And don't get me started on the quality of any writing I am privvy to. I read many appeals for more financial aid, appeals regarding academic suspension, and well, there is no real mystery as to why some of them are academically suspended.

All that being said, I am a firm believer that while college is a good idea for most people, and certainly has an impact on lifetime earnings, not EVERYONE should go to college. There are those who make their way in life, follow and FIND their bliss, without a degree from an institution of higher learning. A very good friend of mine is one of those people, and he is a happy, successful, intelligent and contributing member of society. He lives in London, but that is still a society. Some people have to follow their own path. And some moms have to work extra hard at seeing outside the norms of our society and expectations and help their child find that path and bliss. My friends' mother still bemoans the fact he has not gone to college, but she knows he is happy and doing well.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

My sons prefer to read nonfiction--and frankly, they'll make more with a welding degree from our local tech college than a BA from a liberal arts college. But I hope they read for pleasure AND for necessity--I bet Merrick gets there. He'll discover graphic novels or books about weapons or some such thing to rev him up.

~annie said...

Hurray! Think Geek is great. Oriental Trading was a favorite around here. I know my Critter is a girl, but she was also a very late reader and I never considered academics her strength, but she has been accepted to all four colleges she applied to and wants to study - of all things!- teaching. Merrick will find his way, one way or another.

Anonymous said...

Hooway!

Minnesota Matron said...

Midlife Mama -- you make some good points! I actually had no idea that women outnumbered men now, generally. Very interesting! Also, my husband never went to college and he used to make way more money than I did (real estate, folks, sorry). But more importantly, he's smart, engaged as a citizen, a reader, etc. You're right that all kids 18-24 don't want to read. VERY discouraging when those are the ones you're teaching!

Anonymous said...

It seems that only ~50 years ago, we didnt even try to teach kids to read til they were ~ 7. So Merrick's just espousing 'good old fashioned values'. There, does that help set your mind at ease? [It did mine]
- KT

Daisy said...

Hello again! There's an award for you over on my blog, Compost Happens. Enjoy! I hope your weekend is (realtively) uneventful and peaceful.

MJ said...

I saw this article and thought of your post:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/editorials/those-who-read-well-at-15-succeed/article1465434/

Deb said...

Have you checked out the TinTin books (comic) by Herge? Published in over 30 languages, they seem to speak to kids, especially young boys, and draw them into reading. The subject matter, meh. But reading is reading, the more you do it, the easier it gets. Give it a try. I homeschooled four children, one a reluctant reader, who couldn't put TinTin down.