Thursday, May 14, 2009

THINKING OF BOYS: THE POWER OF GREEK MYTH

By Chris Wilson
Editor-in-Geek

Just like Staff Writer Kevin Hodgson combined comic adaptations of Greek myth with the very popular traditional children’s book, PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTNING THIEF, I did the same with the fourth grade students during my student teaching. Be sure to read Hodgson’s fascinating review complete with graphs. I introduced my comics to the students in my student teaching class early in the semester. I had an entire box filled with Greek mythology from Lerner Publishing.

At first, only one fourth grade student – a boy in the gifted program – picked them up. It was on my recommendation and I thought he would enjoy them. I was right and he was quickly taking them home at night. It is a scary proposition to let students take your books home, but I wanted to encourage his interests so I allowed it. It was not long until I had a group of nearly 10 boys reading Greek myth. The girls, except one, were uninterested.

When we finished our daily read-aloud book, I introduced THE LIGHTNING THIEF to the class. Instantly, the boys became so excited when the story mentioned Perseus, the Minotaur, Medusa, Zeus and other Greek characters. So excited in fact, that they would often interrupt the read-aloud to share what they knew about the characters. There were times when they would stand up and shout and flap their hands.

Fourth grade boys
Shouting
About literature

I could not keep my Greek myth comics in stock. They were in backpacks and on desks and in hands, some even read during recess.

I soon left the classroom to begin my rotations. When I came back four weeks later, I discovered the kids had finished THE LIGHTNING THIEF. Many of the boys had gone on to check out the next book from the library or purchased it from the Scholastic book fair.

I sat down with the students and asked them about it. The boys were almost uncontrollable in their excitement over both the comics and the novel. The girls, on the other hand, were not. I asked them about it.

They were confused.

The girls, you see, had not picked up the comics so they were very unfamiliar with the characters or the back-story. Thus, they were so-so on the book. One female, who was a HARRY POTTER fangirl, was enamored with THE LIGHTNING THIEF and she made that clear, protesting that it was not a boy book.

The girls expressed that they wished the boys and I had helped them understand the characters more before reading THE LIGHTNING THIEF and that we spent a little more time restating what was had happened after the read-aloud. The girls did say that they book was exciting, but was simply hard to understand.

This should not signify that Greek mythology is only for boys. However, I think it has an instant appeal to many boys whereas some girls need more scaffolding in order to connect with the story. Were I to do it over again, I would encourage more girls to read the comic adaptations of Greek myth (including those about the females) and also take time during and after THE LIGHTNING THIEF read-aloud to help scaffold the girls more.

In the end, I would recommend a dual-text reading of comic adaptations of Greek myth with THE PERCY JACKSON series of mythology-related books. The excitement generated, especially for the boys who tend to be reluctant readers, is paramount and should be cultivated and nurtured.

I currently have the following pieces of Greek mythology in my collection:

Jason: Quest for the Golden Fleece
Odysseus: Escaping Poseidon’s Curse
Perseus: The Hunt for Medusa’s Head
Psyche & Eros: The Lady and the Monster
The Trojan Horse: The Fall of Troy
Theseus: Battling the Minotaur
Hercules: The Twelve Labors
Demeter & Persephone: Spring Held Hostage

Lerner has done a good job providing stories with male and female protagonists. They also offer other types of mythology: Egyptian, Japanese, Chinese, Mayan, Arabian, Aztec, Swiss, Korean, African, English and Norse.

1 comment:

max said...

I appreciate any efforts to draw attention to reading, and attract reluctant readers to it.

That's because I grew up as a reluctant reader, in spite of the fact that my father published over 70 books. Now I write action-adventures & mysteries, especially for tween boys, that avid boy readers and girls enjoy just as much.

My blog, Books for Boys http://booksandboys.blogspot.com recently reached # 1 on Google.

Keep up your good work concerning reading.

Max Elliot Anderson