What is a Big Brother? A Definition

Aaron and Rico, 2010

Aaron and Rico, 2010

A Big Brother is a caring adult male who makes a positive impact on the life of a boy or teenager. Often these boys are what’s known as “at-risk” by the U.S. Government and educational authorities. An at-risk youth as any boy who does not live in a literate, two-parent, incarceration-free, drug-free, English-speaking, gainfully employed middle or upper-class household with three or fewer children. This definition applies to more than half of the children living in the U.S. today! At-risk children experience higher rates of economic dependency on others. Many at-risk children have behavioral or emotional problems, skip school, and suffer from a lack of interest in school and as a result, may have extremely poor grades.

A Big Brother has the opportunity to make a positive impact on a boy — and often his entire family — all at once. Studies have shown that boys with Big Brother mentors are less likely to skip school, they get better grades, they are less likely to take drugs or alcohol and they are less likely to become teenage fathers. As one example of the success of this program, the Big Brothers Big Sisters Columbia Northwest chapter based in Portland, Oregon, has had over a 95% graduation rate for all the boys and girls supported by Big Brothers and Big Sisters — including children of color.

Women tend to volunteer in much larger numbers than men, and male volunteers are needed! Big Brothers Big Sisters Columbia Northwest will begin matching Bigs and Littles actively in 2016. If you are a man considering becoming a Big Brother, you can learn more about the experience by reading the book Growing Up Twice: Shaping a Future by Reliving my Past. This new memoir is the first-ever written by a Big Brother on this life changing experience, and it is now available on Amazon.

One Goodreads reader recently wrote: "I kept having to look at the pictures and bio thinking this can't be real - has to be a novel. It is amazing to me how these complex relationships all played out and everyone made it work somehow. I believe the messages in this book are so important that it should be gifted to libraries so everyone has free access."

If you are currently the Big Brother or mentor to a boy, or if you are the parent of a boy, you should read the book Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys. This incredible book can help you understand how boys think. In fact, you may even recognize patterns of your own behavior. Amazon's summary: "In this book: Dan Kindlon, Ph.D., and Michael Thompson, Ph.D., two of the country's leading child psychologists, share what they have learned in more than thirty-five years of combined experience working with boys and their families. They reveal a nation of boys who are hurting--sad, afraid, angry, and silent. Kindlon and Thompson set out to answer this basic, crucial question: What do boys need that they're not getting? They illuminate the forces that threaten our boys, teaching them to believe that 'cool' equals macho strength and stoicism. Cutting through outdated theories of 'mother blame,' 'boy biology,' and 'testosterone,' the authors shed light on the destructive emotional training our boys receive--the emotional miseducation of boys."

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