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Spread the Word . . . Boy Readers Need Positive Male Role Models. Created and moderated by children's author James Preller.
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1. News Item: Another Well-Intentioned Blog Goes Belly-Up

I began this blog with a vision: lots of photos of men reading. Since I already write my own blog, I knew that I couldn’t spend a ton of time on this project. I hoped that it would sort of “write itself” — ha! — but that was just a cruel joke.

Aside: As a published author, that cliche always makes my teeth hurt, “the book wrote itself.” None of my books have ever written themselves. I only wish! When authors say things like that, I want to punch them in the solar plexus, leave ‘em gasping for air.

I do care about reading, and a world in which so many boys seemed turned off to books. And I do maintain, and repeat again, the same old thing: They need male role models, they need to see dad in a chair with a book in his lap. Any book. With this blog, I simply didn’t get the response I needed for it to work for me. In a different life, I might have done more promotion (read: some promotion, any promotion), worked harder to give this thing some life.

These days, I’m pulled in a lot of different directions, not all of them productive. I  need to consolidate my efforts and, yes, focus on the important thing, my writing, my job. So it’s with a degree of resignation that I close this blog and say goodbye. I have other fish to fry.

Good luck, dear readers, thanks for stopping by. And thanks especially to the folks who sent in photos, and the talented authors who contributed pieces to the blog. We did some good things here, and now it’s time to push off down the stream.

My best,

James Preller, author, father, reader . . .

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2. READ ALOUD DAD Stops By for a Visit: “5 Things About Me as a Young Reader”

Today we have a special visit from the man behind the Read Aloud Dad blog. And here he is . . .

Um, wait. There’s a story behind this photo. Read Aloud Dad explains . . .

“I don’t blog under my read name, as I felt it could become a distraction from the message. One of my goals when I started blogging was to promote the idea of fathers reading aloud to their kids. Not a specific father like me — I wanted every father to identify with the idea of “Read Aloud Dad.” Think about it. I could be your next door neighbor, your boss at work, a college friend from Detroit, the pizza delivery guy, George Clooney, the governor of your state. It doesn’t matter. Read Aloud Dad can be virtually anyone; there’s nothing stopping fathers from reading to their kids. As regards the photo above — my decision from the outset was to remain anonymous, so long ago I chose a random photo that I found and saved for an occasion such as this. No one ever asked for it yet!”

Five Things About Me as a Young Reader

by Read Aloud Dad

1. Kiki the Parrot

The Island of Adventure is THE book that got me hooked on reading.

I don’t know how it got into our house. I don’t know who bought it. I don’t know why. But that book was a game changer. Reading was never the same again. Enid Blyton’s The Island of Adventure is the first book in her Adventure Series and it begins with a young Philip Mannering being called by a rude voice that talks to him while he is doing algebra problems under a tree. The voice belongs to Kiki the parrot, who in turn belongs to Jack Trent. Kiki became a personal guru of mine at the tender age of six — my mom still remembers how I ran around the house telling everyone what Kiki thinks about life.

2. Enid Blyton

I cannot overstate the importance that Enid Blyton’s books had on my reading habits. I remember how my brother and I went for a summer to Royal Leamington Spa and how we spent all our pocket money on Blyton books. In fact, a family friend gave us GBP200 to take home to our parents and we spent it all on fun and paperbacks! If you remember seeing two young teenage boys dragging suitcases as heavy as anvils in the early 80’s at Heathrow Airport — that was probably us, lugging our beloved Enid Blyton books.

3. Our home library

I did not live in English-speaking countries for part of my childhood. We traveled around and good English-language books were scarce. So scarce, in fact, that our home collection was more valuable than gold. It was the only barrier between me and my brother and total boredom. We read and reread t

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3. Three men on a bench

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4. Bert’s It

Exercise your mind. Read a book . . . and make sure there are witnesses.

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5. It’s a guy thing

Romanian-born Voicu Mihnea Simandan currently resides in Bangkok. Have book, and backpack, will travel!

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6. Never too young for the classics

Jamey and Jackson share a classic, Arnold Lobel’s great (great, great) Frog and Toad All Year.

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7. “He’s Dad” — and sometimes that’s more than enough

Lisa Harper, a friend of a friend, sent along this photo with the comment:

This picture was taken during a late afternoon/cocktail hour/al fresco impromptu reading session, that became a dinner time storyhour because they couldn’t wait to get to the end of Harry Potter #3. They are: Kory, Finley, and Ella.

Even though my husband hasn’t read my book (he says he’s waiting for the audio version), he reads regularly to our kids, especially our 6-year-old son.

Here are 5 reasons Why Our Son Prefers Dad to Read to Him:

1) Dad does character voices a lot better than Mom
2) Dad has a better recall for the intricacies of plot
3) Dad has a greater affinity for graphic novels.
4) Dad understands that even Lego magazines can be great literature.
5) He’s dad.

Many thanks for all your great work.

Lisa is the author of a well-reviewed, award-winning book, A Double LIfe: Discovering Motherhood.

She recently wrote a terrific article over at Literary Mama, titled “Living with Captain Underpants.”

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8. Link Dump #12: Pam Allyn, Read Aloud Dad, and “The Best Books for Boys”

Pam Allyn comments:

“More than ever, dads are reading to their kids. I am thrilled about this. It’s crucial that boys and girls see their dads as readers. This is the number one most important way we are going to break the negative cycle of boys as nonreaders.”

I have not read the book, and I am usually suspicious of any list of “best books for boys” because of stereotyping issues, or authors simply listing their own books, but I’m impressed by Pam Allyn.

I’m also very, very impressed with the Read Aloud Dad blog and you’ll now find it on the sidebar (which I keep over on the, er, side).

Go to this link to read what happens when Pam Allyn visits Read Aloud Dad to answer 10 Burning Questions.

A couple of highlights from Pam’s answers:

* I think it’s really more a question of what we are not doing for boys as a society. We have enculterated reading to the point where it seems uncool to be a reader if you are a boy. What is valued in the media is boys who are active and moving quickly, boys in sports, boys who are not sitting down. We also do not value what many boys like to read. We devalue internet surfing. We devalue reading nonfiction. We have to make a far greater effort to be sure we are including boys and girls in the club of reading, and help them to value their reading journeys.

* One big problem is the emphasis in the upper elementary and middle grades on the whole class novel. The whole class novel has been pretty successful in convincing boys NOT to read. The whole class novel is the single most deadly bullet aimed directly at boys’ impulse to read. The teacher has selected a book for the entire class that is about something the boy doesn’t have that much interest in, or it’s about a twelve-year-old girl.

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9. LINK DUMP #11: Author discovers powerful new motivational tool to get boys reading . . . Teens mentor young boys to show the value of reading

* Here’s an article that suggests a powerful new motivational tool to get boys reading — naked girls. Meet Don Calame, author of Swim the Fly and Beat the Band.

Contends Calame:

“I sat down to write a book that would speak to the 15-year-old boy I was,” Calame said. “Be true. Be honest. Make the kids real. Make their thoughts real. If it’s not what they hear, if it’s not how they talk, they’ll put it down. [They will think] it’s like the author is lying to us. You want to get books in the hands of kids. You want them to read the next page, then the next chapter. You want to keep them reading.”

* We’re seeing this more and more — older boys modeling a love of reading for younger boys. Click here to read about these impressive young men, “Boy Group Spreads the Written Word.” You can also visit their website, SJ Boys Read, by jumping up and down on this link.

“Reading isn’t something we should do just because we have to do it. It can be fun,” said Nikhil Thumar, a seventh-grader at William Allen Middle School.

Nikihil isn’t alone in his feelings on the subject.

For the last three years, the 13-year-old has teamed with his older brother Kyle Thumar, 15, and Cameron Pendino, 15, to help run the nonprofit organization, SJ Boys Read.

The teenagers started the organization after learning that more and more young boys aren’t really that thrilled about reading.

“Our goal is to mentor young boys and show the value of reading by selecting a book title and holding events featuring discussion questions, games and prizes,” Cameron said.

And what started as a few boys gathered at a local bookstore has grown into an organization that draws dozens of boys to books and brings in authors, professional athletes and others to talk about the value of the written word.


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10. LINK DUMP #10: Strong fathers, strong families . . . father facts . . . reach out and read . . . re-thinking men . . . and the importance of bedtime stories

* It’s always nice when the light bulb goes on. Read Vincent Iannelli’s brief essay, “Strong Fathers - Strong Families.”

We ended the morning with a discussion of how important it is for dads to get involved in their child’s education. It’s not that moms don’t do a good job at this, but for kids in a two-parent family, most do better if both parents are involved in their education. In addition to other things, they talked about the importance of reading to your kids each day.

* On that note, here’s a good site, Strongfathers.com. This link archives some “father facts.”

* Bellevue Hospital’s “Reach Out and Read” program sounds pretty enlightened, and includes tips for using it as a model in other areas:

The mission of Children of Bellevue’s Reach Out and Read is to prepare New York’s youngest children to succeed in school by partnering with doctors to prescribe books and encourage families to read together. As part of a national Reach Out and Read (ROR) initiative, pediatricians, parent educators, and volunteer readers at Bellevue Hospital work together to help parents understand the importance of reading aloud and to give books to children at pediatric checkups from 6 months through 5 years of age, with a special focus on children growing up in poverty. Research shows that being read to early and often creates a strong foundation for later learning and ultimate success in school. Being read to also promotes a love of books and reading in young children.

* Grabbed the photo above from The Family & Intercultural Resource Center. Sweet shot, great message.

* By reading this review of the book, Re-Thinking Men, I learned a new word: “misandry.” The book is by Anthony Synnott, and described on Amazon this way:

Much writing on men in the field of gender studies tends to focus unduly, almost exclusively, on portraying men as villains and women as victims in a moral bi-polar paradigm. “Re-Thinking Men” reverses the proclivity which ignores not only the positive contributio

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11. Bill from the (awesome) LITERATE LIVES Blog: “5 Things About Me as a Young Reader”

Bill Prosser is an elementary school librarian, and my friend. Along with fifth-grade teacher Karen Terlecky, Bill co-authors the outstanding (and very great!Literate Lives blog.

Thank you, Bill, for contributing this thoughtful “5 Things” list rumination appreciation slash memoir slash melange. Wow.

Karen, me, and Bill locked in a savage group hug.

5 Things About Me as a Young Reader

1. One of my earliest memories of reading is from fourth grade. My teacher, Mrs. Moore, read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory aloud to us. I was so taken by the story that I talke about it at home all the time. I come from a family of readers, so my parents bought me a copy as a gift and my mother and I took turns reading it aloud to one another. It’s still one of my favorite childhood memories and I’m sure it’s a large part of where I am today, sharing books with kids for a living.

2. I grew up in a small town, but we had a great library. In summers, my neighbor, Susie, and I would walk to the library at the beginning of the week, check out a stack of books, and walk home. We’d spend a large part of each day sitting on my front porch reading. The next week we would walk to the library, exchange our books and start all over again. My favorites were the Junior Biographies. I must have read every one on the shelf, some of them several times. It introduced me to George Washington Carver, a man I am still amazed by to this day. I still love to read a good biography.

3. My family of readers goes back a couple of generations. My grandfather, Pop Davis, lived with my family for several years before he passed away. He was a reader! He loved westerns and baseball. On summer evenings he could be found sitting in his chair reading a book, listening to one baseball game while watching another. He was truly a multi-tasker and an example of a man who loved to read.

4. My father is also an avid reader. Growing up he read when he could, always pouring over the local news, squeezing in a book when he had time, but always encouraging my sisters and I to read. Today, in retirement, he has kind of taken over my trips to the library. He and Mom make at least a weekly trip to the library, usually focusing on an author. They will check out everything by an author, read it, trade it, and then return them. Typically they won’t move on until they have finished everything available by the chose author. To this day they remain great examples of readers and book lovers.

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12. Monkey see, monkey do

Well, there it is, the concept in a nutshell. A boy will imitate what he sees.

Laura Ludwig Hamor writes:
Here is a picture of my husband, John Hamor, reading with our son, Brian.
Laura happens to be a talented illustrator who often uses clay. Check it out below . . . and click insanely on this link. I don’t believe that Laura has ever illustrated a children’s book, but she should.
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13. Even Jean-Luc Picard loves “Fathers Read”

I always loved this vision re: the future of books.

Make it so.

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14. Link Dump #9: What are fathers for . . . dedicated dads . . . Thomas Newkirk interview . . . the National Center for Fathering . . . and more.

* Yolanda Miller asks, “What Are Fathers For?” She begins with a great quote from Gloria Steinem, Most American children suffer too much mother and too little father.” About midway she writes:

By manhood, I do not mean the stereotypical beer-belching, video-game-playing, sports-fanatical behavior often attributed to men—I mean something deeper. I am talking about the core essence of a male identity that has gone missing. As gender roles have morphed, women have preached and proven their self-sufficiency. The end result is that we have implied (and sometimes stated) that men are no longer wanted or needed and that their contributions, outside of sperm and salary, are no longer desirable.

* Here’s an entertaining site for to-the-point book reviews from a retired guy’s perspective: “My Dad Reads Too Many Books.”

* This “Dedicated Dads Program” invites fathers into the school:

Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) is the parental involvement initiative of the National Center for Fathering that organizes fathers and father figures to provide positive male role models for students and to enhance school security.

At Anderson-Livsey Elementary, which opened in the Shiloh cluster at the beginning of the school year, officials launched the program in the school to ensure students would have male role models.

“The whole goal of Watch D.O.G.S. is to attract and get positive male role models into the education system,” said Darren Boyce, the school’s parent instructional support coordinator.

* Anna Richardson reports: “Kids prefer gossip mags to books.”

A National Year of Reading study [based in Australia] has revealed that children are reading celebrity gossip magazines such as Heat and Bliss instead of books, especially if the novels stretch to more than 100 pages, reports the Daily Telegraph.

Boys and girls as young as 11 said they preferred absorbing the exploits of pop stars and models such as Amy Winehouse and Kate Moss to reading books by Jacqueline Wilson or Philip Pullman.

The study sparked debate on whether children were damaging their development by reading such magazine, or whether children should be encouraged to read what they liked, as long as it was reading.

* Over at my other blog, Jamespreller.com, I had t

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15. “5 Things About Me as a Young Reader” by Michael Northrop


“5 Things About Me as a Young Reader”

by Michael Northrop

1) As a young reader, I wasn’t much of a young reader. I am dyslexic and got off to a slow start. I repeated second-grade and spent the second year in a small special ed. class where they had me read the same few Dick and Jane books over and over again. It wasn’t exactly thrilling reading, but it worked well. I’m pretty sure it took advantage of the high degree of brain plasticity at that age to retrain my neural pathways. Though if you asked my teacher, she just would have said, ‘Practice makes perfect.’

2) And that may be, but the first thing I wanted to practice was the fantasy role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. This was way before World of Warcraft or other advanced computer versions. D&D was made entirely of words, either spoken or written, and as I became more immersed in the game, I began reading the books. I poured over The Player’s Handbook, The Monster Manual, and though it was technically forbidden for a mere player like me, the impressive, tome-like Dungeon Master’s Guide. I wasn’t reading for the fun of reading, exactly. I was looking for shortcuts and clues and information, anything that could make me a better player and my characters more powerful. Nonetheless, I found myself spellbound (so to speak) by those books for hours at a time.

3) The first book I remember reading for fun was also largely because of D&D. My brother, Matt, was a voracious reader and had named his top character after a character from a book. It was the ultimate compliment in our world (I’d named my top character after a Norse god!), and I had to know how a mere book—like the ones they made us read in school—could be cool enough to cross over into the game that dominated our own fiercely guarded after-school hours. The book was The Book of Three, the first installment in Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydian series, and after reading and enjoying it, I understood why Matt named his ranger Gwydion.

4) The next big book for me actually was assigned in school: Watership Down

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16. By any light available

Ann sent in this photo of her determined husband, along with this comment:

“After I read your blog post I thought of this photo that I took of my husband years ago.  I have always really liked the way it looked with him reading by campfire.  He is not a father, but he reads . . . and was enjoying a Piers Anthony Xanth novel when this photo was taken while camping in the Canadian Rockies.”

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17. Link Dump #8: Principal gets pie in the face . . . Eva Pearlman asks questions . . . gender assumptions that limit boys . . . a man records 1,600 words before losing his voice forever

* Here’s a terrific way for schools to boost reading: the five-million page challenge.

Heritage Elementary School, the largest elementary school in the district, read 635,103 pages. Although the school didn’t set a particular goal, there was some friendly competition between the girls and the boys.

“The girls barely won over the boys,” said library media specialist Michelle Barnes.

“We had an assembly last Friday (March 4) where several girls got to spray shaving cream all over a fourth-grade teacher and other girls got to spray silly string all over the principal.

Photo: Lindsay Keefer.

* An amazing story about a British father with a motor neurone disease who is set to record 1,600 words before losing his voice forever.

Laurence Brewer will record 1,600 sentences for a computer program that will break them up into individual sounds and then piece them back together again to form words under Brewer’s control. Brewer said his inspiration for the project was his 13-month-old son.

He said, “He is the key motivation for me to record my voice so that if my voice is lost, he can still hear what his dad sounds like. I might be able to read him bedtime stories; your voice is part of your identity. He can maybe also hear what I sound like when I am no longer here.”

* A University of Washington study shows that second-grade students associate math with boys and reading with girls.

Our results show that cultural stereotypes about math are absorbed strikingly early in development, prior to ages at which there are gender differences in math achievement,” said Andrew Meltzoff, co-author of the study.

* Speaking of stereotypes that limit boys, Eva Pearlman asks questions about why the acceptable range of expression for girls seems to have expanded — tough and athletic is cool — there is no or little leeway for boys.

As a society we seem to be more comfortable with a tree-climbing, ball-playing, T-shirt-and-jeans-wearing girl then a pink-wearing, non-sports-playing boy who prefers quiet arts-and-crafts projects.

Why is that?

* This is just great. Hat tip to my new friend, Deb Hanson, over at Real Men Read with Kids.

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18. “He licked my eye!”

It’s a truism that nobody cares about your damn home videos. But as I’ve gotten older, and my kids have grown up, I have a certain affection for those early days of babyhood, especially when it comes to the over-the-moon joy of new parents.

Here a baby purportedly says “da-da” for the first time. I don’t know these people, less than 500 folks have seen this video, not even sure how I found it, but I do remember the feeling. How could I not? It’s one of those moments a man never forgets. Enjoy.

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19. Zimmy reads, too

Bobby D.

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20. LINK DUMP #6: Meet Fred . . . Real Men Read with Kids . . . The Daddy Yo Blog . . . and, simply, “the boys don’t have as many role models as the girls,” and a program that wants to do something about it.

* Meet FRED!

For more info on the Texas-based FRED program, just follow this link.

Fathers Reading Every Day (FRED) is a program designed to encourage fathers, grandfathers, and other positive male role models to read to their children on a daily basis. The program aims to increase father involvement in children’s literacy development and to improve the quality of father-child relationships.

* Over at her blog, Real Men Read With Kids, Deb Hanson asks, “Why Don’t We See More Images of People Reading?

Deb Hansen is a woman after my own heart. She writes:

The more I thought about this, the more I wondered about how we portray the things we value in our society today. We are bombarded with advertisements and TV shows containing images of skinny girls, beautiful skin, buff guys, and tasty foods. There are images everywhere of musicians, sports stars, movie stars, and things to buy. These ads make us value those qualities and items and want to be like those people in them.  Young people are especially swayed by these kinds of images.

So, I have to wonder if we create and display more positive images of people reading – especially of men reading –- will seeing those images increase the value of reading in the eyes of the viewers? Could we get more boys to become readers if they see more images of men reading each day? Would attitudes about the value of reading change just by being surrounded with images of people  happily reading?

* Since starting Fathers Read, I’ve come across a new subculture: Daddy Bloggers. Here’s a recent sample from The Daddy Yo Blog, where David quotes from a pamphlet featuring the words of Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, M.D.:

* Babies can distinguish their father’s voice from the voice of a stranger by the age of four weeks.
* School-aged children show significant gains in intellectual development when their fathers are involved with them as infants.
* Involved fathers enrich their children’s self image.
* Children who have involved fathers show more sense of humor, longer attention spans, and more eagerness for learning.
* Father involvement helps teens to develop a strong sense of who they are and increases their ability to resist peer pressure.

* In “How to Help Boys Achieve in English Class,” Lisa Evans writes for eHow:

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21. We wouldn’t dream of mentioning it . . .

This shot of Aaron, in shirt & collar, and Ofi, in harness (apparently Ofi refuses to wear a collar), was sent in by author Peter Marino, who warned:

“Ofi” is Choctaw for “dog,” so his name is Dog. But don’t say that to him . . . he gets very testy about it.

Peter Marino is the author of Dough Boy and Magic and Misery.

———–

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22. Leland Holiday: Man Reading Book

Found this while tangled in the web, an acrylic and mixed media painting on canvas by Leland Holiday, a Navajo artist you can learn about by clicking here.

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23. LINK DUMP #7: The missing father influence . . . Aaron Zenz’s Bookie Woogie Blog . . . Boys & Reading & Deb Hanson . . . a worldwide movement of fathers reading to their babies in utero!

* “When it comes to schools, fathers make the difference,” writes James D. Davis in the Times-Herald. Ostensibly writing to pledge his support for a downtown charter school, Davis gets passionate when he writes about absent fathers in Vallejo, CA:

Let me make clear that when I talk about the absence of fathers, I don’t necessarily mean fathers physically absent from the child’s home; many fathers are absent while they sit and watch a football game or walk down the street with their child talking on the cell phone. Fathers can be absent from a child’s intellectual development, while being right next to the child. It is not physical proximity that causes intellect to flower; it is a father who draws it out, who engages with his child, and who cultivates and guides his child’s thinking.

I am not minimizing the role of mothers. In truth, children need mothers and fathers. But the father influence is missing in Vallejo.

<snip>

If fathers do not understand their role and their responsibility, we are sunk. My plea for fathers is ignored by the population. Our villagers really don’t see what can be done about it. It’s a “cultural” thing. How many times have I heard, “Well, he had no father, and his father’s father had no father - it’s a cultural thing.” I will not accept that. And if our community accepts it, all the fancy schools in the world won’t matter. If we don’t talk about it, we can’t progress. We are stuck looking for the best school, leaving the rest behind. And that search costs a lot of money. Missing fathers cause school failures (it’s not the teachers, folks) and a culture of disrespect and crime. But instead of talking about how to make fathers responsible, we’re going to raise taxes (to pay for the crime and damage) and start a super new school (leaving the rest of the students behind). More money, more threats to teachers and principals, more tests, more experts - all we need is more fathers.

* Deb Hansen is my new favorite person this week. The force behind the Real Men Read with Kids website, she also put together this terrific web page, “Boys & Reading,” which is smart, concise, and offers a lot of useful resources.

Deb Hanson writes:

I’ll argue that one of the best ways is to connect every boy with a caring adult man who reads with, to, and in front of the boy, modeling how reading helps him learn, grow, engage with the world, and get better at being a man. When was the last time you saw a dad, grandpa, uncle, or coach read to a kid?

* Over at Bookie Woogie, a father (author-illustrator Aaron Zenz) and his three kids talk about books. They are already up to their 88th book review — and they include illustrations, too! Here’s an excerpt from their review of

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24. And at Twelve Weeks He’ll Be Reading Proust

Jessica writes:

This is my husband, Chris, reading to our then six-week-old son, Nesta.

The sender of this terrific photo, J. L. Powers, is the author of two recent books: The Confessional and This Thing Called the Future. Thanks J. L., and good luck with the writing life. It looks like you’ve got the reading life pretty much under control.

-

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25. Daddy tag-team: the fabulous Zenz brothers

Brothers Andy and Aaron Zenz read to four of their nine (total) children. In math, I believe that’s called a subset. The other five children are, I presume, simonizing and buffing the family automobiles. Turtle wax on, turtle wax off; turtle wax on . . .

Aaron Zenz has illustrated many books for children, and he’s penned a pair of philosophical treatises, too: HICCUPotamus and Chuckling Ducklings and Baby Animal Friends.

——–

Aaron also blogs at Chicken Nugget Lemon Tooty and Bookie Wookie.

No one seems to know what Andy does, frankly.

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