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Starring: Marilu Bicknell


In his REAL MEN READ poster, Mark Silverstein inspired boys with a favorite book about the Phillies.

Nearly every empty bit of wall space at Thomas E. Bowe School in Glassboro, New Jersey, has been filled with posters of men, and its all for a worthwhile cause. The posters are part of a fun program modeled after the America Library Association's public engagement campaign that features celebrities with their favorite reads. Bringing the concept a little closer to home, Marilu Bicknell, a basic skills teacher at the school, invited administrators, coaches, police officers, bus drivers, and other men students know from the community to pose with their favorite books or magazines as part of what she dubbed the "Real Men Read" program.

While stars like the Jonas Brothers grace the ALA posters, Bicknell's creations show a diverse group of local heroes, such as Principal Kriston Matthews with Newsweek, and Brian Douthitt, who does building maintenance for the district, sitting on his Harley-Davidson with a touring handbook for bikers. All students, including girls, enjoy the posters, and its common for students to pause to examine a poster and discuss the reading material it highlights. Because Real Men Read targets young men who are considered "at-risk," an initial group of 40 boys in grades 4-6 were selected by teachers to join the heroes for breakfast.

Marilu Bicknell's own "real men who read receive encouragement from local heroes.

"Our Breakfast for the Boys event brings the boys in one-to-one contact with the men who posed for the posters," Bicknell told Education World. "They discuss books and reading, and eat. The most recent breakfast kicked off our second year and introduced our fourth graders and new boys to the program."

The boys have been most receptive to the new program. By the end of its first year and the culminating pizza party, Real Men Readhad almost doubled in size. The participants took part in a reading challenge, in which their good reading grades earned coupons for the annual book fair.

"It was a positive way to approach reading with non-readers, and they loved the fact that they could read a comic book as one of their books each marking period," reported Bicknell. "They really did well and embraced the program."

Building maintenance worker Brian Douthitt became a school sensation with this pose. Photos provided by Marilu Bicknell

In October, Bicknell presented the literacy project to the New Jersey State School Boards Association 24th Annual Convention in Atlantic City. As word has spread about Bicknell's program, more volunteers have donated their time and lent their likenesses to posters encouraging students to read, further reducing the unclaimed wall space at the school.

A new aspect of Real Men Read is in the works -- a tailgating party at the Glassboro Public Library. That event will include the boys' close male role models from home, so those men can see firsthand what the boys in their lives are so excited about.

Coming Soon...

If you're a teacher who has completed an interesting or unusual activity with your class -- or if you know of a teacher who has -- please let us know about it. E-mail a brief description of the activity, along with your contact information, to [email protected]


Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
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