Book Review of “Jump Starting Boys” by Pam Withers & Cynthia Gill

Click the image for Pam's blog.

Click the image for Pam’s blog.

It’s no secret that somewhere around Grade 4, when boys are 8 or 9, many fall behind in reading. The new book release “Jump Starting Boys” by Pam Withers and Cynthia Gill is a very good attempt to help parents deal with that reality.

I say “good” attempt, as opposed to “outstanding” because, in spite of my being a retired educator and former reading specialist, I found it hard to navigate the book to get at the book’s cover promise of “hundreds of encouraging tips and tools.” A subject index at the back of the book would have helped in that regard.

In addition, the eleven chapter titles read like you would find in a college or university textbook and the Appendix which (contains endnotes,  bibliography,  references and recommended reading) is 67 pages long!!!! Although, kudos to the authors and publishers for not allowing the footnotes to interrupt the prose.

Overall, however, I think it is a worthy book for parents. On pages 25 to 28, for example, the authors talk about the various reading “slumps.” Of the three slumps (Kindergarten, Grade 4 and High School), in my opinion (from personal experience), Grade 4 is the most important — and here’s why.

The first stage of reading is about reading fluency, being able to decode and identify letters and combinations of letters, as well as being able to identify their meaning within sentences. That phase is formally called the “learning to read” stage and it is taught using a variety of instructional methods in Grades 1, 2 and 3.

Meaning, that by the start of Grade 4, all those skills need to be totally automatic. The problem of course is obvious. Not all children develop at the same pace. Yet, ready or not, from Grade 4 onward, reading is all about comprehension or what is referred to in the literature as the “reading to learn” phase.

The result? Students do their best to catch up but when they can’t, they give up and become what Withers and Gill refer to as “underachievers.”

On page 73, readers will find a learning style list that I think is incomplete in that I would recommend separating visual learning style into two categories: visual spatial (maps and flow charts) and visual sequential (sequential lists and sequential diagrams) — which is what my textbook was about.

Without a doubt, kids today have many things competing for their time.  While reducing TV and computer time is important, parent engagement is probably key and on that I agree with the authors 100%. However, in spite of that agreement, I think the book’s format would have been more parent friendly had it been structured on the basis of the most important eleven or twelve tips and tools, as opposed to the awkward chapters.

My thanks to VIVA Editions for the complimentary copy.  To purchase the book, click on the above image for the publisher’s website.