If you stopped by any elementary school in Queen Anne’s County this spring during lunchtime, you might have wondered what was going on — amidst the controlled chaos of lunchtime, why did that group of 4th- and 5th-grade boys each have a book with them, and who was that grownup they were reading with?
This scene was made possible by an ongoing collaboration between Queen Anne’s County Library and Queen Anne’s County Public Schools that has resulted in the Guys Read program — 2018 marked the third year of this program, which follows a model developed by the Fairbanks (AK) Public Library to engage school-aged boys at a time when average reading scores tend to precipitously drop for boys compared to girls. Guys Read aims to engage boys with funny, exciting books that might not yet be part of the school curriculum, and male volunteers from the community (“grownup guys”) read the books aloud with students during lunchtime.
Research shows that many boys don’t think of reading as a masculine pastime. Many boys reach adulthood without having masculine role models who read for pleasure. It is well established that the best way to grow a reader is to read to them and for them to see their role models read. The Guys Read volunteers are intended to serve as needed male reading role models.
Queen Anne’s County Library Assistant Director Kim Baklarz worked with the schools and volunteers on this program.
“Guys Read offers both the students and volunteers an opportunity to spend some fun and sometimes silly time enjoying books together,” Baklarz said. “It is a joy to work with the schools and volunteers who make this program possible.”
This year 17 community volunteers worked with more than 475 4th- and 5th-graders from seven county elementary and middle schools. Together they read and discussed portions of four books, and students were encouraged to head to their school library and the public library to find the books, and more like them.
At the conclusion of the program, students expressed thanks to all the volunteers. One wrote, “Thank you for spending your own time to read to us. We appreciate that you did that especially the expression you had when you talked. It was impressive and fascinating and superb. And the value of your reading was like a thousand dollars. So thank you, Sincerely a 4th grader.”
As the program wrapped up this year, each student received a free copy of one of the books that they had discussed in order to encourage them to continue reading independently even after the conclusion of the program. The Friends of Queen Anne’s County Library provided the funding for the books.
Friends of the Library President Kathie Smarick said, “This program shows how many different ways there are to encourage literacy in our community. We were delighted to be able to support this successful collaboration between the Library and our schools.”
Plans are already being made for year four of Guys Read. If you are interested in serving as a community volunteer in the 2018-19 school year, contact Kim Baklarz at email@example.com.
< As printed in the Bay Times and Record Observer >