Boys Can Be Bookish: In One Dallas ISD Book Club, Boys Outnumber Girls

Dec 2, 2013

Boys outnumber girls in an afterschool book club at W.W. Samuell Early College High School in Dallas. The club is finishing up reading Fahrenheit 451 and plans to read Into the Wild next.
Credit Stella M. Chávez

When you think of book clubs, you don’t necessarily think of boys. And when you look at the most recent Nation's Report Card, the scores reveal that boys don't fare as well as girls on reading tests. Here's one book club in Dallas ISD that's bucking that trend.

At W. W. Samuell High School in East Dallas, a group of ninth graders, mostly boys, sit around a table discussing the 1953 classic "Fahrenheit 451." It’s about a futuristic society where books are banned and the ones found are burned. It was also the selection for the citywide literacy campaign Big Read Dallas earlier this year. English teacher Lauren Dowdy helps provoke a discussion by asking them questions about the part they’ve read. She asks how one of the characters refers to the people on TV. One student answers that the character calls them family.

“And what’s strange about that?” Dowdy asks. “Why does she call them family?”

“They don’t have an actual family,” the student responds.

This isn’t your typical English class. The students in this afterschool book club are all part of Samuell’s Early College High School program. The fact that four of the five kids here are boys stands out in light of the dire statistics on reading. Nationally, girls outscore boys by 10 points in eighth grade reading, according to results from the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress exams. Dowdy says even those who like to read can fall behind if they aren’t challenged.

“I just wanted to give some of my students that I know are readers give them a chance in a smaller group setting to feel more collegiate, discussion oriented, which we don’t always have as much time for in class, but give them a chance to read a challenging text and talk about it,” Dowdy says. “I thought they would enjoy that.”

You can read more at KERA's Class of 17 education blog.