How to Get and Keep Boys Reading
Renowned authors and illustrators for young people JACK GANTOS, JEFF KINNEY, JARRETT J. KROSOCZKA, JON SCIESZKA, and the Library of Congress National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature GENE LUEN YANG gathered on Thursday, October 5, 2017 for How to Get and Keep Boys Reading.
Our lively panel of authors and illustrators, whose work is of special interest to boys, participated in an informative and entertaining discussion on how to get and keep boys reading. Librarian and Children’s Literature expert Maria Salvadore moderated the discussion.
Please be sure to check out our extensive education resources below, which we hope will inspire you to share the literary and artistic work of this extraordinary panel, created and organized to help you make the most of the participating authors’ featured books in your classroom, library, and home.
About the Speakers
Jack Gantos has written books for readers of all ages, from picture books and middle-grade fiction to novels for young adults and adults. His works include Hole in My Life, a memoir that won the Michael L. Printz and Robert F. Sibert honors; Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, a National Book Award Finalist; Joey Pigza Loses Control, a Newbery Honor book; and Dead End in Norvelt, the 2012 Newbery Medal Winner and the Scott O’Dell Award Winner for Best Historic Fiction.
While in college, Gantos and an illustrator friend, Nicole Rubel, began working on picture books. After a series of well-deserved rejections, they published their first book, Rotten Ralph, in 1976. It was a success and the beginning of Jack’s career as a professional writer. This surprised a great many people who thought he was going to specialize in rehabilitating old bookmobiles into housing for retired librarians.
Jack continued to write children’s books and began to teach courses in children’s book writing and children’s literature. He developed the master’s degree program in children’s book writing at Emerson College and the Vermont College M.F.A. program for children’s book writers. He now devotes his time to writing books and educational speaking.
Jeff Kinney didn’t grow up wanting to be a children’s author. His dream was to become a newspaper cartoonist, but he wasn’t able to get his comic strips syndicated. In 1998 Jeff came up with the idea for Diary of a Wimpy Kid, a story about a middle-school weakling named Greg Heffley. Jeff worked on his book for almost eight years before showing it to a publisher in New York.
In 2006, Jeff signed a multi-book deal with publisher Harry N. Abrams, Inc. to turn Diary of a Wimpy Kid into a print series. The first Diary of a Wimpy Kid book was published in 2007 and became an instant bestseller. Just a year later, more than 100,000 copies were in print in the United States alone. With each subsequent book, in-print numbers continue to grow exponentially both in the U.S. and abroad. There are now more than 180 million copies of the series in print worldwide.
Jeff Kinney is also the creator of Poptropica, which was named one of Time magazine’s 50 Best Websites. He spent his childhood in the Washington, D.C., area and moved to New England in 1995. Jeff lives with his wife and two sons in Massachusetts, where they own a bookstore, An Unlikely Story.
Jarrett J. Krosoczka, a New York Times bestselling author/illustrator, creates books with humor, heart, and a deep respect for his young readers—qualities that have made his titles perennial favorites on the bookshelves of homes, libraries, and bookstores.
First published at the age of twenty-three, Krosoczka has more than thirty published books to his credit. Titles include several picture books, his wildly popular Lunch Lady graphic novels, and the Platypus Police Squad middle-grade novels. He also recently launched a new story arc in the Jedi Academy series with Star Wars™: Jedi Academy: A New Class.
Krosoczka is a two-time winner of the Children’s Choice Book Awards Third to Fourth Grade Book of the Year and has been a finalist for the prestigious Will Eisner Comic Industry Award. He has delivered two TED Talks, which have collectively accrued more than two million views online. Krosoczka has been featured on NPR and can be heard weekly on The Book Report with JJK on SiriusXM’s Kids Place Live, a show focusing on books, authors, and reading. His Punk Farm, Lunch Lady, and Platypus Police Squad series are all currently in development for film.
Krosoczka lives in western Massachusetts with his wife and children, and their pugs, Ralph and Frank.
Jon Scieszka is a bestselling author and the first National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, having been appointed in January 2008. The position was created by the Library of Congress to raise national awareness of the importance of young people’s literature as it relates to lifelong literacy, education, and the development and betterment of the lives of young people. Born in Flint, Michigan, Jon Scieszka earned a bachelor’s degree in writing from Albion College and a master of fine arts degree from Columbia University. He held a number of teaching positions in the first through eighth grades before taking a year off to develop ideas for children’s books.
He is the author of many bestselling children’s titles, including The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales (winner of a Caldecott Honor medal), The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, Math Curse, Robot Zot!, and the Time Warp Trio, a chapter book series. In addition, Scieszka is the founder of Guys Read, a nonprofit literacy organization. Jon lives in Brooklyn with his family.
Gene Luen Yang began making comics and graphic novels in the fifth grade. In 2006, his book American Born Chinese was published by First Second Books. It became the first graphic novel to be nominated for a National Book Award and the first to win the American Library Association’s Printz Award. It also won an Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album – New.
In 2013, First Second Books released Boxers & Saints, his two-volume graphic novel about the Boxer Rebellion. Boxers & Saints was nominated for a National Book Award and won the L.A. Times Book Prize. Yang has done a number of other comics, including Dark Horse Comics’ continuation of the popular Nickelodeon cartoon Avatar: The Last Airbender and DC Comics’ Superman.
In addition to cartooning, Yang teaches creative writing through Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults.
In January 2016, the Library of Congress, Every Child A Reader, and the Children’s Book Council appointed Gene Luen Yang as the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.
Maria Salvadore has been involved with children’s literature and literacy activities for her entire career. She has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in children’s literature, reviews and writes a blog for Reading Rockets, and consults with local, regional, and national organizations. Salvadore has been the Children’s Services Coordinator for the Washington, D.C. Public Library and the Cambridge, Massachusetts Public Library. She has chaired or served on numerous committees including the Caldecott, Newbery, Boston Globe/Horn Book, Children’s Book Guild Nonfiction Award, USBBY’s Outstanding International Books, and the Notable Children’s Book Committee, as well as other award juries. She also reviews for School Library Journal and Capitol Choices.
Education Resource Materials
To expand and complement the content of How to Get and Keep Boys Reading, please check out the following education guides, articles, blog posts, and videos.
Education Resource Guides
Be sure to check out the following education resource guides for each of the participating author’s and illustrator’s featured books. Each education guide includes discussion questions, activities, and links to more relevant resources. Each guide is formatted to be easily printed double sided.
- Education Resource Guide for JACK GANTOS
- Education Resource Guide for JEFF KINNEY
- Education Resource Guide for JARRETT J. KROSOCZKA
- Education Resource Guide for JON SCIESZKA
- Education Resource Guide for GENE LUEN YANG
Articles from the NCBLA
- Set the Stage for Great Writing
- Create a Language-Rich Environment for Your Students
- Motivate Your Students to Write
- Creating a Home Atmosphere that Supports Great Writing
- Helping Your Teens and Tweens Edit Their Writing
Articles from Reading Rockets
- Boys and Books
- Hooking Struggling Readers: Using Books They Can and Want to Read
- Reading Motivation: What the Research Says
- Graphic Novels for Young Kids
- Graphic Novels for Kids: Classroom Ideas, Booklists, and More
- Kwame Alexander: A Metaphor for Life
- Nonfiction Books for Kid
Blog Posts from Reading Rockets
- What Do Boys Read?
- Boys and Books
- Giving Boys a Love of Reading
- Meet the Middle-Aged Asian Guy Book Club!
- Jason Reynolds: The Beauty of Words Is Magic
Graphic Novels and Comic Book Resources
Graphic novels and comic books can appeal to even the most reluctant reader. Visit our Graphic Novels and Comic Book Resources page to discover a treasure trove of resources—articles, websites, and booklists—to help you make the most of graphic novels and comic books in the classroom, library, and at home.