- Associated Press - Sunday, December 6, 2015

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - Alan Fraly said that he’s unusual among his peers - he’s a teenage boy who likes to read.

“Guys don’t read,” said Fraly, 16, a ninth-grader at Traverse City Central High School and a voracious reader since he first got his hands on the Bible. “They’ll get a book and read a few pages. Usually the only time guys read is for a report.”

A new club at the Traverse Area District Library is aimed at changing all that. Guys Read is designed to get boys 13 to 19 to read by giving them a say in their reading material - from humor and non-fiction to graphic novels, science fiction, war novels, even comics and magazines - as well giving them permission to put down a book they don’t like, as long as they pick up another.

They also have a say in how their book discussions - which typically include food - are structured.

The club was organized by TADL Teen Services Coordinator Linda Smith, whose master’s degree focused largely on boys and literacy.

“There’s a huge reading gap for guys, like the math and science gap for girls,” said Smith, who has been planning for the club for a year.

She said reasons for the gap range from a lack of male role models who read, to lesser-talked-about guy-friendly titles. While some boys are excellent readers, boys generally don’t discuss books with others, Smith said.

“Segregating them by gender (in a book club setting) allows them to talk openly. There’s no stigma,” she told the Traverse City Record-Eagle (https://bit.ly/1Q9lxAM ).

Guys Read is a chapter of a national web-based literacy program founded by author Jon Scieszka, the first National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature. The idea behind it: to help boys become self-motivated, lifelong readers.

The website includes a collection of book titles recommended by guys, along with bold downloadable bookmarks, book plates, book labels and other “cool guy stuff” like “guys gear” logo wear.

There’s even an official Guys Read Charter that local chapters can print off and have their members sign. Among other things, members agree to embrace and use new technology like computers in their reading and to occasionally, with their leaders, perform the Guys Read ritual of smashing things “just for the heck of it.”

They also agree for club meetings not to morph into classrooms.

“I’m not supposed to be teaching them or quizzing them,” said Guys Read leader Matt Archibald, a part-time TADL Sight and Sound page and father of the club’s youngest member, Josiah Archibald, 12. “The point is to get them reading.”

The club launched in late October and currently meets Thursday evenings from 5-6 p.m. in TADL’s teen services area.

“I think the first week we had guys because there was pizza,” said Smith, who helped pull together a collection of about 20 guy-friendly titles for the group’s initial members to consider.

Alan Fraly finished the first book - World War II novel “Soldier Boys”- in two days and already is on to something else. He said the club is less about what individual guys are reading than about the chance to bond over books.

“Guys Read is based on reading for fun and hanging out with other guys who love reading,” he said. “We’ll talk, we’ll eat, we’ll drink pop.”

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Information from: Traverse City Record-Eagle, https://www.record-eagle.com

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