Boys Literacy Program

In thinking about a literacy program for boys in the 6th-8th grade, I envisioned developing the program around literature circle book selections. Boys need to have choices when making book selections, and these books would be booktalked briefly, then students could select the title they are most interested in reading during a two-week literature circle cycle. We do four literature circle cycles each school year. Boys and girls will be choosing from these selections for one of those cycles.

Given the diverse student body at my school, I searched for books that represented multiple ethnicities. The following selections were made to promote diversity in our classroom library and curriculum, and also appeal to different reading levels. The final project activities would be displayed along with information and graphics about the authors. My thinking is that if we highlight male authors from diverse ethnicities, we will create an inclusive atmosphere in which male voice is present. Students will know that their interests and favorite writers from their cultures are valued in my classroom. Moreover, my 6th grade Language Arts team teacher and I will be writing a grant this fall for these books and supplies, and these book recommendations will be incorporated into that grant.

Student final projects for the literature circle books also allow for choice. I would like the entire group that reads the book to create the project together. Whether the final project is a talk show, graphic novel, dramatization of a main issue in the book and resolution, or "Talk to the Author" collection of letters or online interview, students will have a chance to collectively plan their presentation and find a format that is both fun and entertaining to share with the class and/or display in the school library.

PART I--Choose one of the following books. Based on the book you selected, join other students who are interested in reading the same book

Taking Sides
by Gary Soto

NY: Harcourt, 1991.

   In this novel, eighth grade Lincoln Mendoza has moved from an urban neighborhood in the Mission section of San Francisco to a quiet California suburb. He's a star basketball player and his athletic ability earns him a place in his new community, but things are not so easy when he has to play a basketball game against his old school and his old friends.  Soto's well-crafted novel provides a convincing portrait of an adolescent boy of Latino heritage growing up in a single-parent home. Lincoln's relationship with his mother is thoughtfully captured, and there's a lot of Spanish dialogue. A Spanish words and phrases sections is included at the end of the book.

Booktalk this novel and display related nonfiction books about:
 Mexico, Immigrants, Biographies of Latino athletes

Author Biography

More middle school novels by Gary Soto


by Laurence Yep
NY: HarperTrophy, 1975.

The fourth book in The Golden Mountain series, Dragonwings chronicles the life of Chinese immigrants in the San Francisco Bay area. In this coming of age story, eight-year-old Moon Shadow leaves China with his uncle to join his father in "The Land of the Golden Mountain" as his people call California. Yep's beautiful prose and lively narrative follow Moon Shadow on his journey that spans the years 1903-1910. The reader discovers, along with Moon Shadow, how to navigate in the new and foreign world while still honoring Asian customs and values. At the heart of the story is Moon Shadow's relationship with his father, and their commitment to building a "flying machine."

Related nonfiction book topics
Wright brothers, China, San Francisco history
Other related books: Chinese folktales

More books in the Golden Mountain series

Author information


by Carl Hiaasen
NY: Knopf, 2002

Hoot is a hoot! In this fast-paced comedy, twelve-year-old Roy Eberhardt attempts to save the habitat of burrowing owls from a developer. In the process he battles the school bully and makes some very interesting friends. This book is a great read for anyone interested in finding meaningful friendships and caring for the environment. Hiaasen is a gifted writer, and this book is highly recommended.

Related nonfiction book topics
Burrowing owls

Author information


The Watson's Go to Birmingham--1963
by Christopher Paul Curtis
NY: Bantam/Delacorte, 1995.

Christopher Paul Curtis captures the African-American experience in this short and humorous novel about a family with three sons and a daughter. Kenny, the middle child, is the narrator. In 15 easy-to-read chapters, Kenny tells hilarious stories about his parents, poignant stories about his brothers and sister, and silly stories about school. What holds everyone, and the book, together is the family's love for one another. Curtis looks at this turbulent time in history from the eyes of a young boy, and the humor on every page will keep readers smiling and learning. It's historical fiction, but with such contemporary characters that middle school readers will certainly connect with the story immediately.

Other books by Christopher Paul Curtis
Bud, Not Buddy; Bucking the Sarge

Related nonfiction book topics
Segregation, Birmingham, Martin Luther King, Jr.

Click here for: Author Biography and Interview


Whale Talk
by Chris Crutcher
NY: HarperCollins/Greenwillow Books, 2001.

Chris Crutcher explores issues of racism and domestic violence in this novel about a young bi-racial high school student who stands up to a corrupt school administration in small northwest town. The title of the novel is something of a mystery, and is revealed in the narrative in a subtle and profoundly moving story of fathers and sons. Students interested in sports, and swimming in particular, will enjoy this book.

Related nonfiction book topics
Whales, swimmer biographies

More books by Chris Crutcher

Author Biography



You will have two weeks to read your book. Every two days I will conference briefly with your group. You may use most of your class time for the next two weeks to read, but we will convene every two days to chat about the novel.

The first thing you need to do as a group is decide how much you will read every three days. Break down the book by chapter or pages so that everyone is reading the same parts at the same time. I will review your schedules.

Second, individually you will each need to make a "bookmark." Fold two sheets of 8 x 11 white paper in half. On the first page write the title of the book and author, name, class, and period. Below, create a heading stating "Characters" as you read the novel, list the names and identifying details about the characters on this page. On the second and third pages, write the heading "Chapter Summaries." You will chronicle each chapter with brief plot points or summary. On the last page, write the heading "Vocabulary." On this page, you will list any new words you encounter or don't know. Bookmarks will be collected AND graded at the end of each literature circle cycle.


With your literature circle group, choose from the following to present to the class as a group. You will have three days of in-class time to work on this project. The book project ideas are from Both Art and Craft: Teaching Ideas that Spark Learning by Diana Mitchell and Leila Christenbury (NCTE, 2000).

Talk Show on Issues in a Novel: Create and perform a talk show around one of the major issues or themes in the novel. For example, after reading Tangerine by Edward Bloor you might want to discuss the issue of the brother's violence and the way the parents dealt with it. Include people to represent several points of view on the issue. You might include characters from the book, a social worker, a police officer, a psychologist, etc.

Talk to the Author: Write a letter to the author of the book explaining to him why you think he wrote the book and what he was tryig to show through the book. Be sure to explain what you got out of the book. If the author is still alive, send the letter to the author via the publisher of the book.

Your Own Graphic Novel: Think of an issue that was important to your character, then create a graphic novel showing how your character handled the issue. For example, in Maus II by Art Spiegleman, Artie is struggling to find ways to spend time with his father without being controlled by his dad. Find one main issue in the book you just read, and illustrate how the character relates to others and eventually stands up for himself.

Dramatize a Scene: Choose a scene from the novel that shows the main character in action. Find a way to dramatize the scene, using simple props or puppets. Write a simple script to accompany your dramatization.


Paperback books
 60 Dragonwings --$6.99/book
 60 Whale Talk--$5.85/book
 60 Hoot--$8.95/book
 60 Taking Sides--$5.95/book
 60 The Watson's Go to Birmingham--$6.50/book
Total cost for books: $2054.00

Final Project Supplies
  Poster Board--$20.00
  Prop materials: large scarves for covering chairs or making backdrops for scenes, puppet-making materials (popsicle sticks, glue), markers, toy microphone (for talk show hosts)--$50.00

  Video recorder or digital camera to record student projects and post to classroom Web site (this I would borrow from library, but if we ever had extra funds, I would write it into a grant for the 6th grade language arts program).


60" Height (4 adj. & 1 base shelf) (Details)  Oak--$442.00


Total cost for books: $2054.00
Total cost for supplies: $70.00
Total cost for shelving:



Completed July 22, 2005
for Rutgers SCILS
Man of Advantage: Books and Boys in the Middle and High School Years
Professor Waller Hastings


Submitted by Elizabeth Kauffman