No girls allowed

Boys-only book club gets students excited about reading


Reading comes easily to first-grader Jack Coon. But the Soda Creek Elementary School student just wasn't getting excited about books.

"He wasn't excited about reading," said Ann Coon, Jack's mom. "As a parent, I was kind of knocking my head against the wall. What's going to motivate my kid to enjoy reading?"

Coon isn't alone in her concern. Many studies indicate boys are far less likely to read for enjoyment than girls are, and some blame that fact for the disparity seen across the country in the reading and writing test scores of male and female students.

In an effort to get Jack excited about reading for enjoyment, Coon recently decided to start a boys-only book club for Soda Creek first-graders. Inspired by the various book clubs started by Strawberry Park Elementary School media specialist Sherry Holland, Coon sent letters to the parents of every male first-grade student and immediately received responses from several of them.

Then, "word just kind of spread," Coon said last week. Before long, the number of boys and their parents who wanted to be part of the club increased to 14.

The club met for the first time in February to discuss "Dragon Breath," a book in author Jane O'Connor's "Eek! Stories to Make You Shriek" series. The club, which also includes several second-graders, met last week to discuss "The Mummy's Gold," another book in O'Connor's popular series.

As has quickly become customary for the club, parents Meg and Steve Firestone decorated their home in a spooky, Halloween-esque theme that coincided nicely with the subject matter in "The Mummy's Gold." Fake spiderwebs hung in the Firestones' entryway, and the dining room table supported a paper-made coffin holding a mummified stuffed animal. While the parents of many of the boys sipped on wine and enjoyed tortilla soup, the children scarfed down theme food such as hot dogs wrapped -- like mummies -- in crescent rolls, cantaloupe rounds, or "evil eyes," and a "dirt" chocolate pudding dessert complete with hidden gummy worms.

Of course, the emphasis of Monday night's gathering was a group discussion of "The Mummy's Gold." When the group of boys finally settled down into dining room chairs, Ann Coon led a discussion that quizzed the students on characters, plot events and many of the small details found throughout the short story. She even got the boys to disagree on a question of content.

"Let's read, let's check it out," Coon said. "We've got to settle this one because we're all confused."

When the book discussion was complete, Coon turned her focus to relating the story and its make-believe mummy to real-life mummies and their origins. The talk eventually touched on ancient Egypt and the pyramids that served as monuments and burial sites for Egyptian leaders.

"Pyramids are made because people who ruled Egypt were kings and queens, and the pyramids are where they're buried," Preston Stuart said. Stuart, 8, said he really liked "The Mummy's Gold" because it was exciting.

After only two book club meetings, parent Kristin Wilson said her son Harry is becoming less shy and more excited about reading.

"I think it has been great," Wilson said. "(Harry) always liked reading, but he has fun being able to see that some of his friends enjoy reading, too. It's good to see him see that reading can be fun."

And with that, the boys-only book club already is achieving one of its primary objectives.

"If they see their buddies reading the same book and talking about it and enjoying it, it's a whole new story," Coon said. "I've never seen Jack so excited about reading."

The club, which meets monthly at students' homes, ups the ante this month with a longer and more difficult chapter book, "Tonight on the Titanic," a read from the popular "Magic Tree House" series.

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail


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