Rural Md. Council funds Guys Read project
ANNAPOLIS — Adults often have fun joking around about the differences between men and women, especially when it comes to communication. However, the “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus” issues are no laughing matter when it comes to boys and girls and literacy.
Thanks to a $9,900 grant administered by the Rural Maryland Council, Alleghany and Queen Anne’s county libraries have launched a program called Guys Read, which reaches out to fourth grade boys through their respective public school systems.
According to the U.S. Department of Education reading tests for the last 30 years show boys scoring worse than girls in every age group, every year. In addition, eighth grade boys are 50 percent more likely to be held back a grade than girls.
As with most discrepancies between the sexes some of these facts can be explained by nature while others by nurture. Boys develop more slowly than girls, which show up early on in their reading and writing skills. In addition, boys often learn in a more actionoriented, competitive style, which isn’t particularly useful for learning reading and writing skills. Further complicating the biological differences are the perception that reading is more of a feminine activity than a masculine activity as well as a lack of motivation to read.
Guys Read is based on a program developed by the Fairbanks North Star Borough Public Libraries in partnership with the Borough School District and the Literacy Council of Alaska. The Alaskan program was inspired by a website and nonprofit literacy organization created in 2001 by noted children’s author Jon Scieszka.
“I was the reluctant fourthgrade reader,” said John Walden, executive director of the Queen Anne’s County Library.
“It wasn’t until I was in high school that I found a male role model that was passionate about books and reading,” Walden added, speaking of his high school English teacher.
Walden learned about Guys Read at a library conference. It wasn’t until he relayed his personal history about reading that he discovered that the influence of a male role model is what made that passion click for him. That is what he hopes will happen to the nearly 300 fourth-grade boys in the Queen Anne’s County program.
“I hope that when the program is completed the reading specialists will tell us that they’ve seen an increased interest in reading from our fourth grade boys,” he said.
The program is being administered in Allegany and Queen Anne’s counties. In both counties a diverse group of male volunteers have been recruited to read a special selection of books to the boys during their lunch period.
In Allegany County, volunteers from a variety races and backgrounds have been recruited ranging in age from their 20s to 70s. A pair of volunteers will read per school visit six participating schools for a total of 48 visits. In all, 114 boys will participate in the Allegany County Guys Read program.
“It is a joy to watch the sessions,” said Lisa McKenney, public services coordinator, Allegany County Library System. “There is just this light that comes on. It is so neat to see that awakening taking place. During some of the sessions the boys were so engrossed in the story that they forgot to eat their lunches.”
The grant was one of 16 grant projects awarded totaling $166,941 to 16 organizations. In all, this year 53 organizations applied to the Maryland Agricultural Education and Rural Development Assistance Fund for $890,000 in support.
Between 2001 and 2015, the program has awarded more than $2.96 million in grants to 74 rural-serving nonprofit organizations. Many of these organizations have been able to establish or continue programs and projects that have had a significant and positive impact on Rural Maryland because of the MAERDAF program. Moreover, the Fund has helped many nonprofits develop institutional capacity, improve grant-writing skills, and enhance the internal development of volunteer boards and staff.
Founded in 1994, the Rural Maryland Council operates under the direction of a 40-member executive board in a nonpartisan and nondiscriminatory manner. It serves as the state’s federally designated rural development council and functions as a voice for rural Maryland, advocating for and helping rural communities and businesses across the state to flourish and to gain equity to its suburban and urban counterparts. The vision for RMC is the ultimate realization that citizens living in rural communities are achieving success in education and employment, have access to affordable, quality health care and other vital public services, and live in an environment where natural and cultural resources are being sustained for future generations.
To learn more about Guys Read in Queen Anne’s County, call the Queen Anne’s County Library at 410-758-0980. For MAERDAF grant information call 410-841-5774, email rmc. mda@ maryland. gov or connect with the Rural Maryland Council at facebook. com/ RuralMaryland or on Twitter @RuralMaryland.
A Rural Maryland Council grant funds the Guys Read Program, a partnership with the Queen Anne’s County Library and fourth grade students to motivate and inspire boys to read.