|Pam Withers with (to right) her older sister and co-author Cynthia Gill|
The inside story of writing Jump-Starting Boys: Help Your Reluctant Learner Find Success in School and Life (Viva Editions 2013)
Everyone knows that boys are falling behind in education. Largely left out of the discussion are parents of boys, who are most aware that their bright, eager sons hit an invisible wall somewhere near fourth grade, after which they become disengaged, discouraged, and disaffected. There are dozens of books on underachieving boys, but most parents brave enough to lift one off the shelf are instantly intimidated by the footnotes, graphs, case studies, and academic-speak addressed almost entirely to educators. What about the average guilt-ridden, frustrated mother or father of an underachieving boy? Jump-Starting Boys is the first book on the market that empowers parents, helping them reclaim the duties and rewards of raising their children and navigate the influences of school and media. Filled with reassurance and support, the authors turn fear and guilt into can-do confidence. Through easy tips and action list sidebars, this is the most practical, readable book on the topic.
When I first started writing adventure books for teen and pre-teen boys, librarians used to comment to me, “These are perfect for reluctant readers!”
The first time this happened, I responded, “What are reluctant readers?”
That launched me on an investigation that became a passion. I immersed myself in reading on the topic, and started gathering statistics and stories for presentations. The trouble is, most of the books on the topic are written for academics rather than parents and mentors. They can make parents feel even less empowered and frustrated than they already do.
A few years later, my older sister Cynthia and I found ourselves riding in a car together for six hours while en route to a family funeral. Ever tried to find conversation good for six hours with a sibling with whom you aren’t particularly close? (Cynthia is two years older, and all my life I saw her as prettier, smarter, bossy, more popular and confident; I looked up to her and was intimidated by her!)
Cynthia (who lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota) is a long-time educator who went back to school to become a therapist; she now works with at-risk teens and their families. http://www.cynthiagill.info/
I certainly admire that about her. Anyway, we chatted about raising boys (she has three; I have one), and the challenge of turning them out as happy and successful citizens. We also both have a mutual love for reading, planted in us by our parents who read to us much as children. So we spent lots of time talking about the importance of getting boys to read. (Boys form the majority of reluctant readers.)
By the end of the six hours, we said (naively!), “Let’s write a book together about that!”
It was supposed to be an eight-month project, but it turned into a two-year labor of love. Our biggest fear was that we wouldn’t be speaking to each other by the end of it, but happily, it actually brought us much closer.
Viva Editions of California http://www.vivaeditions.com/index.php was the publisher who took us on and encouraged us all the way through. They were great to work with, and pulled out all the stops for publicizing the book.
To us, and I think to Viva Editions, it’s more than just a book. It’s a mission to help reluctant reader and under-achieving boys. We want parents and mentors to know that they have the power and responsibility to make a difference.
Feedback we’ve received is very positive, and we hope Jump-Starting Boys continues to contribute to the parenting, education and mentoring of boys. They deserve the best!