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The Why Chromosome: Why Boys Do Love Books

November 21, 2011

From time to time, we like to highlight some of the innovative programs independent bookstores across the country are doing to promote literacy and to introduce children to authors. The event Caitlin writes about today was held a few weeks ago, and the partnership between the children’s only bookstore and the Bridge to Books literacy-themed nonprofit resulted in a rich, powerful session on how to better reach boys through literature. This post was written for us by Caitlin Ek from Mrs. Nelson’s Toy and Book Shop. Thanks so much for your guest post, Caitlin!

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The entire panel, from top left: Stephens, Zadoff, Neri. Bottom left: Auxier, Smith and Eekhout.

On Sunday, October 30th, Mrs. Nelson’s Toy and Book Shop and the Bridge to Books organization hosted “The Why Chromosome,” an event designed to bring together a panel of middle grade and young adult male authors to discuss and encourage a love of reading in boys (although girls were welcome too, of course). This panel was the first of its kind, and featured an astounding six authors: G.Neri (Ghetto Cowboy), Allen Zadoff (My Life, the Theater, and Other Tragedies) , Andrew Smith (Stick), Greg Van Eekhout (The Boy at the End of the World), John Stephens (The Emerald Atlas) and Jonathan Auxier (Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes).

The event, hosted at Mrs. Nelson’s, started with a BBQ and meet-and-greet, followed by the panel discussion and Q & A. As the presentation got underway, each author shone, answering the questions with direct, heartfelt answers. Being in the room you could tell that the authors truly wanted to be there and felt strongly about the reason behind the event. This was without a doubt one of the finest panels I have seen.

When asked why an event like the “Why Chromosome” is important, Emerald Atlas author, John Stephens answered, “Focusing on boys’ readership is important because that group tends to be neglected.” Boys’ readership, although present, needs to be more widely encouraged. Too often boys are not aware of the new reading options for them or just need motivation to pick up a book that is not a 100 year old classic for required reading. Allen Zadoff had perhaps the most meaningful statement of the day. The moderator was asking which literary character each author felt they most connected with and Zadoff thoughtfully responded,“Probably Hemingway…I’m fascinated by the duality of being a man and being able to feel deeply.” By encouraging reading and literacy in both boys and men alike, I found this to be one of the most important notes to take home from the event. As a bookseller and (a woman!) I am so glad I got to witness the Why Chromosome event and the level of heart and passion each person had there.

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For more information on the authors, please visit their sites:
Andrew Smith- http://us.macmillan.com/author/andrewsmith-1
G. Neri- http://www.gregneri.com/
Greg Van Eekhout- http://writingandsnacks.com/publications/
Jonathan Auxier- http://www.thescop.com/
John Stephens- http://www.randomhouse.com/kids/emeraldatlas/author.php
Allen Zadoff- http://allenzadoff.com/

And for more on this amazing event, check out this blog post written by an attendee (and ninth-grade student)!

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