Saturday, August 18, 2012

Boy Writers

Another summer read for me has been Boy Writers: Reclaiming Their Voices by Ralph Fletcher. This book explores some of the particular challenges that many boys bring to writing workshop, challenges such as their love of including violence in their work and their earthy humor. He is clear to recognize that every boy writer, indeed every writer, is unique. Yet he points out that these qualities are often found in the writings of boys as a group.

This spoke to me because I have often struggled to find the balance between letting students find their voices in their own stories, driven by their own topics and interests, and wanting them to also be aware of the impact of their choices, particularly when they are incorporating violence or what might be seen as inappropriate humor into their works. I also want them to branch out beyond the popular culture infused topics (super heroes, Star Wars, video games) that they often embrace.

This book has no easy answers, but it does show how simply disallowing these types of writing can lead to some students disengaging from writing workshop. I remember when our school participated in a simulcast with children's author, Mo Willems. He referred to how he "shamelessly" copied Charles Schultz's Peanuts in his early writings as a child, and how much he learned in the process. While I want them to grow into developing their own characters, my students' use of super heroes can help them develop stories that they relate to and that gives them incentive to work on their writing skills.

And the humor, ah yes. At the end of last school year my students went through all their writings from the year. Not even I had read every piece of writing in their folders. They passed back to me any pieces that they did not want to take home with them. As I looked through them I found one poem about farts that one of my boys had written. I had to admit it was hilarious. He had used language effectively to create a humorous poem. I'm not sure what my reaction would have been if he had read it to me when he wrote it. This book helps me prepare for such times.

1 comment:

Ralph Fletcher said...

Very perceptive comments! I'm glad you liked my book. I have a companion text with boy writers (roughly grades 4 through 89) as the audience. It is Guy-Write: What Every Guy Writer Needs to Know (Holt).

Ralph Fletcher