Boy Writers: Reclaiming Their Voices

In his intriguing new book Boy Writers: Reclaiming Their Voices, renowned author and educator Ralph Fletcher challenges educators to think about creating boy-friendly classrooms so their voices can be heard.  We were honored to have Ralph as one of our keynote speakers at both our 3rd Annual Summer Conference on the Teaching of Writing and our 2nd Annual Summer Conference on the Teaching of Reading and Balanced Literacy, as well as our guest speaker at our recent conference: A Day with Ralph Fletcher.

Author Ralph Fletcher and Growing Educators Co-Founder Jessica Martin

In both his keynote addresses, Ralph Fletcher discussed working with apprehensive writers and how to create classroom environments that are safe places to write where risk-taking is supported and encouraged. He also discussed what subjects our boy writers are passionate about, what motivates them as writers, why they like to incorporate violence into their stories, and how much violence should be allowed. He challenged us to think about why we so often misread and misunderstand the humor boys include in their stories and to revisit writing genres that are more boy-friendly, including graphic novels, fantasy, and true fiction.  He suggested that parody and satire are a central genre that motivates boys to write.

Ralph also discussed other differences between girl and boy writers: girls draw in nouns, boys in verbs. They essentially live in the action of a writing piece, hence some key elements of boy writers include forbidden objects, chases, danger, and a social nature to their writing: boys show connection by what they do (action) together (research from Newkirk).

Ralph Fletcher at our 2nd Annual Summer Conference on the Teaching of Reading and Balanced Literacy

Growing Educators: A Day with Ralph Fletcher

Ralph also discussed the role of mentor text in supporting all our writers, urges us to give students an opportunity to react to text, and cautions us not to “squeeze all the juice out of a mentor text.” He also supports the idea of boy writing clubs to foster a sense of connectedness our boy writers crave. Below is a list of mentor text Ralph suggests will support our boy writers:

  • Couple of Boys Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee
  • Let’s Do Nothing by Tony Fucile
  • The Dunderheads by Paul Fleischman and David Roberts
  • Wonder by R. J. Palacio
  • Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri and Jesse Joshua Watson
  • How They Croaked: The Awful Ends to the Awfully Famous
    by Georgia Bragg and Kevin O’Malley
  • The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander
  • The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
  • A Tale of Dark and Grimm Adam Gidwitz
  • Ice Drift Theodore Taylor
  • Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos
  • King of the Mild Frontier: An Ill-Advised Autobiography by Chris Crutcher
  • Lunch Lady by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
  • Bad Island by Doug Tennapel
  • Guy-Write: What Every Guy Writer Needs to Know by Ralph Fletcher

To learn more about Ralph Fletcher and boy writers, check out his Blog or Website.

Written by Growing Educators Staff Developer Courtney Kinney