Ru­ral Md. Coun­cil funds Guys Read project

Record Observer - - Opinion -

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.

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO

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.

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