The ambassador for boys and literacy

At the 2009 CCIRA reading conference, I had the privilege of meeting Jon in the hallway, as well as listen to a two-hour presentation by him and three other authors. The following is a list of various things that he discussed during his portion of the presentation.


His personal background

  • He grew up with five brothers and spent 12 years in a Catholic school
  • His daughter is writing a graphic novel
  • His son Jake viewed reading and work. This inspired John to write the Time Warp Trio series

"We need to let them fly around sometimes"

Throughout his entire childhood Jon and his five brothers were always creating amazing stories. Stories that they would carry with them throughout their lives. Many of these stories prompted his father to refer to him and his brother as knuckleheads. As a classroom teacher, John viewed restless and rambunctious "knuckleheads" with a lot more patience and understanding.


I couldn’t help but recall back to when I was a classroom teacher. Many of the boys that were funneled into my classroom were rambunctious just as he described. I quickly discovered, too, that boys respond much better when teachers can demonstrate patience and understanding.


Other things he mentioned

  • He doesn’t like writing just for boys
  • He had the entire crowd laughing when he recalled a fun book from his childhood days. The book was titled, The Twits by Roald Dahl. He described the part in the book where Roald Dahl compared the  grandmother’s pursed lips to a dog’s bum.
  • He described how his son’s entire fourth grade class was required to read Little House on the Prairie and how torturous this was for his son. I couldn’t help but get frustrated with the teacher.
  • He discussed how 10 years ago it was much more difficult to talk about the problems and issues revolving around boys in literacy.
  • A good quote from Jon – "We need to go and play around with reading, to play around with kids."
  • Crossing swords with his brothers (need I say more?)

His suggestions

  • The biggest thing is to find books that boys like
  • Don’t stereotype genders. Don’t make boys feel awkward or left out.
  • He spent some time discussing his new early reading book series called Truck Town. He spent a good portion of the school year sitting in observing students in a preschool class. His observations helped him to create the characters in the series.

Question to Discuss

What knucklehead behaviors have you experienced with boys?

{ 1 comment… add one }

  • Holli

    Wait. Don’t stereotype genders, but we’re supposed to sympathize with the poor, bedeviled boy who had to read a book about a girl? ARGH! Come on! That is classic American literature that delivers a hefty dose of history, too. He’s going to have to read books he doesn’t like for the rest of his school career. Encouraging him not to like a book because it’s about a girl does both him and women in general a major disservice. I love Jon and his books are great–we own many and are working on completing the collection. I just don’t appreciate it when girls are treated like second-class citizens.


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