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Adult book reviews

School Success for Children with Special Needs

School Success for Children with Special Needs

By Amy James
John Wiley & Sons Inc

How can you determine if you child has a learning disability? Sixteen pages of checklists by age in this book will help.

What resources exist if you do suspect he or she has difficulties that need to be addressed? The author has many answers, and it’s encouraging to know that there are, in fact, more than 300 diagnostic tests in the United States for learning disabilities. more »

The Reading Zone

The Reading ZoneBy Nancie Atwell


Imagine a kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school that exists solely to demonstrate how to get kids to read. Imagine that both teachers and parents can peek into this school, if only through the pages of a book. Yes, such a school actually exists – The Center of Teaching and Learning in Edgecomb, Maine. It’s a nonprofit demonstration school founded in 1990 by Nancie Atwell, who shares a wealth of tips and insights her time there has garnered her, in The Reading Zone. more »

Unlock Your Education Potential

Unlock Your Education PotentialBy Dr. Brian R. Haig and Jeffrey D. Haig

THF Publishing

Schools like to call themselves the path to success, but without an “insiders’ map” and helping hand, who can really navigate their dark, twisty corridors efficiently? Here’s a book aimed at high schoolers or newly minted college students who crave a secret mentor to steer them toward straight As, popularity, self-confidence and a diploma that doubles as a ticket to lifetime success. more »

Reading & Writing & Teens: A Parent’s Guide to Adolescent Literacy

Reading & Writing & TeensBy Cathy Fleischer


Here’s a book that actually delivers what it promises in its title. Kudos for the fact it’s easy to read and has a wealth of sidebars and suggested resources. And major points for connecting the importance of reading and writing. “Literate people are those who can both read and write.”  more »

A Family Of Readers

A Family of ReadersBy Roger Sutton and Martha V. Parravano

Candlewick Press

When it comes to children’s books, we adults too often completely forget what drew us into reading in the first place. Sutton’s book reminds us: “Don’t think of books for young people as tools; try instead to treat them as invitations into the reading life.” more »

Childhood Under Siege

Childhood Under SiegeBy Joel Bakan

Penguin Group Canada

Do you find it difficult to separate your child from television, the internet, electronic games or social media? Do you try your best to pass your values onto your children, but feel ever more helpless against the powerful influence of advertising and media? Do you have a child diagnosed with ADHD or something else for which pharmaceuticals were prescribed perhaps a little too quickly and casually, in your view? (But you dared not object, because doctors know best, right?) more »

I Won’t Read and You Can’t Make Me

I Won't Read and You Can't Make MeBy Marilyn Reynolds


The author – a successful young adult novelist as well as a teacher – is well qualified to write on this topic. But since the book is written for teachers, something like a third of its great advice isn’t applicable to parents. For instance, you’ll need to skip the pages on reading logs and journals, reading questionnaires, book completion forms and other school stuff (exactly the kind of thing kids need to escape in their reading at home).  more »

Quick Reviews

Selected and reviewed by the Keen Readers team; these are not sponsored links.

Trouble with Boys

by Peg Tyre
Crown, NY 2008

Good stories, cases and statistics, and the best written of the books on this list. It does go a little overboard on statistics and graphs to make points. And its focus is on education, not just literacy.

The Minds of Boys: Saving Our Sons from Falling Behind in School and Life

by Michael Gurian and Kathy Stevens
Jossey-Bass 2005

Books on the gender gap that try to address both parents and teachers generally fail. This one is a rare exception (along with Tyre’s book above). On the other hand, its vocabulary and depth of research will be over some parents’ heads, and why should parents opt for a 351-page book when more than half of it speaks to educators? Still, this book has everything but its length going for it: It includes stories, statistics, lists of highly practical suggestions, even advice for using the right words when speaking with boys. It is well written and organized and maintains a positive, supportive tone. Gurian, who has been called the “Dr. Spock of boys,” has produced dozens of books and DVDs for parents. Check out his website for more:

Connecting with Boys 2

by Michael Sullivan
American Library Association 2009

This book is well-written but the author clearly sees his primary audience as fellow librarians and teachers, and falls short of offering practical tips more geared at parents.

Boy Smarts

by Barry MacDonald
Mentoring Press 2005

Wonderfully practical, well organized and attractively laid-out. We salute the way it breaks down its eleven chapters into 100 guidelines. However, it tries to address educators, parents and community leaders all at once – which means there is a lot of advice on which only educators can act, which can be frustrating for parents. Although it definitely includes material on literacy, this is not its primary focus. Finally, its scope is so broad that at times the book feels like it is bouncing off walls. (It tackles everything from “support boys with alternative sexual orientation” to “facilitate peer mentoring.”) Even so, it has wonderful anecdotes and we admire its positive tone and organization.

The War Against Boys

by Christina Hoff Sommers
Simon & Schuster, 2000

This book is strident, aggressive and political. It quotes a prodigious number of statistics and studies (now somewhat outdated), and spends a lot of time on material of interest only to educators. Even so, this is a thorough and well-written book, and Sommers does an excellent job of establishing the boy problem and taking to task other authors on the topic whose research she deems less rigorous.

Reading Don’t Fix No Chevy’s

by Michael W. Smith and Jeffrey D. Wilhelm
Heinemann 2002

There is so much valuable information here, it’s a shame that it speaks so directly to teachers. Its language and format is uncomfortably heavy for an average parent. The book kicks off with a very thorough summary of research on boys and literacy. It then spends the rest of its pages presenting the results of a study on groups of boys and their reading habits.

How to Say It to Boys

by Richard Heyman, Ed.D.
Prentice Hall Press, NY, 2003

The introduction is an excellent summary of research on brains and hormones. The overall format is super practical. Too bad, then, that the material within that format is somewhat shallow, with advice like “read to your child.” Its chapter on reading is not helpful at all, and it offers no advice on reading for boys over the age of twelve, despite the fact that this is the very age where a decrease in reading typically becomes an issue.

Misreading Masculinity: Boys, Literacy and Popular Culture

by Thomas Newkirk
Heinemann 2002

Although stodgily written, this book embraces literacy as a key component of what boys need for success. It’s more academic than practical, pursuing long discussions on boy code, censorship, violence and so on. Its interviews with boys themselves are not terribly insightful and it addresses teachers more than parents.

Boy Writers: Reclaiming Their Voices

by Ralph Fletcher
Stenhouse/Pembroke Publishers 2006

Focused entirely on boys and writing, this book offers valuable insight into the topic. Its many pages of young boys’ actual writing and drawings strikes us as unhelpful filler, however.

Even Hockey Players Read

by David Booth
Pembroke Publishers 2002

This is dated and somewhat amateurishly written. Even so, it’s worth a mention.

Hear Our Cry: Boys in Crisis

by Paul D. Slocumb, Ed.D.
Aha! Process Inc. 2004

This book is full of fear-mongering statistics about men imprisoned and otherwise lost to society. It tackles boys’ needs in general, literacy not being a major component. Despite all that, it includes some moving stories and several practical sections, especially advice on how to improve communication with boys with sample scripts as guidance.

Differently Literate

by Elaine Millard
Falmer Press 1997 (U.K.)

An excellent source on literacy; too bad it’s so stiffly written. Target audience appears to be education academics.

Myth of Laziness

by Mel Levine
Simon and Schuster 2003

There’s good material here on the physical differences between boys and girls, but unfortunately, it’s not well organized, it focuses only on children with learning challenges (through case studies), and most parents would find the tone and vocabulary over their heads.

To Be a Boy, To Be a Reader

by William G. Brozo
IRA 2002

Deals mostly with the types of books that interest a boy. It’s not badly written.

Gender Matters from School to Work

by Jane Gaskell
OISE Press 1992

Dated, feminist and more concerned with girls than boys, this is written in an academic style. Unlike many books on this list, however, it touches on the transition to adulthood.

Info Kids

by Ron Jobe and Mary Dayton-Sakari
Pembroke Publishers 2002

Very well written but dated; includes material on what boys like to read.

Reluctant Readers

by Ron Jobe and Mary Dayton-Sakari
Pembroke Publishers 1999

The sole focus here is on reluctant readers. Although wonderfully practical in its organization, it is dated.

Boys and Literacy

by Elizabeth Knowles and Martha Smith
Libraries Unlimited 2005

This book has a lot of useful book recommendations and practical strategies, but the writing is very dry.

Adolescent Boys

by Niobe Way and Judy Y. Chen
New York University Press 2004

Super-stilted writing that is clearly aimed at academics. Uses phrases like “adolescent socialization and identity.” Even so, it definitely tackles the issues of literacy and at-risk kids.

Why Gender Matters

by Leonard Sax
Doubleday 2005

All about the physical differences between boys and girls. Doesn’t tackle literacy at all, and it doesn’t supply an index.

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