Today’s recommendation is a series that I only recently stopped to read after passing by them on the library shelf for months. I wasn’t sure what to make of the tile on the spine. Was it inclusive? Was it exclusive? Does it matter? So, I finally chose one of the volumes at random and wow, I wish I’d done it sooner. My son loves these books! He’s been slow to show interest in reading fiction, preferring non-fiction and biographies but this is a series that will help broaden his exposure to other types of writing but in a fun and entertaining way.
The Guys Read series is a collection of short stories written by authors that boys enjoy reading, including Kate DiCamillo, Mac Barnett, Adam Rex, Dav Pilkey and Dan Gutman, just to name a few. The stories are often focused on male main characters who are just trying to navigate the everyday struggles of childhood and adolescence. Humor is required for all of the stories in the collection and there’s often a lesson to be learned, even if it’s not necessarily as obvious as some of the more earnest reading material you may be used to.
Guys Read first began as a web-based literacy program for boys founded by author Jon Scieszka in 2001. The program’s mission is to “to help boys become self-motivated, lifelong readers” by bringing attention to the issue, promoting the expansion of what is called “reading” to include materials like comic books, and encouraging grown men to be literacy role models.
Scieszka is the author of many fictional series and picture books. His Truck Town series, with over 50 installments, is well loved by the early reader set. Scieszka’s own experience as an elementary teacher inspired him to start the Guys Read program. He spent 10 years teaching 1st through 8th grade and during that time he observed that the boys he taught often lost interest in reading much sooner than his female students. After leaving his teaching career to write and tour full time, he created Guys Read as a way to keep boys engaged in reading through adulthood.
The series spans multiple genres, organized into volumes: thrilling, spooky, humorous, sports, scifi/fantasy, historical and superheroes. There’s truly something for everyone to enjoy! So far, my son’s favorite story comes from a collection of funny stories. It involves a boy named Dean who feigns best friendship to a boy named Ernest, who is definitely annoying but, well… he possesses an extra ticket to gain entry to the Nesquik chocolate syrup factory! Despite Dean’s attempts to keep that secret under wraps, the entire grade ends up finding out about it, resulting in Ernest suddenly having TONS of new best friends! Hilarity ensues as Dean goes further than he ever imagined to secure his spot in the chocolate factory tour. You won’t see the ending coming… and neither does Dean!
His second favorite story comes from the collection of thrilling stories. Paul is on location with his father, who is shooting an episode of a show that focuses on haunted places. So far, it just seems like any old, drab house to Paul. There’s not much to keep him busy and there certainly aren’t any ghosts… until suddenly, there are! He comes face to face with multiple apparitions and finds himself at the center of a century old dispute between a man and his greedy sons.
The sons believed they would inherit a fortune after their father passed away. However, the father knew of their dastardly plan and decided to hide his fortune from them, even in death. To this day, the fortune has gone undetected; no one even has a clue what it might be. But Paul discovers the answer to the mystery… just in time to witness its irrevocable destruction.
I think that’s part of the appeal of these books, particularly to boys in the 8-12 age range. They may be ready for more sophisticated plot lines but in the end, they also enjoy a heaping dose of destruction and disorder. They don’t require a neat ending to each story. I know my own reader is perfectly fine with an abrupt ending as long as it’s funny or absurd enough to make him laugh.
If you have a similar reader in your life, I highly recommend that you explore the Guys Read series. If you have a reluctant reader who prefers to read graphic novels right now, you may find that the plot lines are compelling enough to engage them in a more traditional chapter book. Additionally, the stories are in fact short; they’re self-contained narratives that wrap up in about 20 pages, perfect for reading before bed. And the use of multiple authors means that if your reader isn’t really feeling one particular story, all they need to do is flip to the next story to find a completely different plot and writing style.
I’ve so glad that this series has 7 books for us to explore. I feel confident that being exposed to different genres in bite-sized chunks will help broaden my son’s interest in reading fiction and many other types of literature. I hope that trying this series will help your ‘guy’ read more, too!