Boys Don’t Read! Boys Don’t Read?
Posted on July 21, 2011
There is a lot of buzz going on about boys not reading. Authors, publishers, librarians, booksellers, they all rack their brains to find ways to get them to read. Particularly young adult boys seem to have fallen in a deep and dark literature-less pit.
I’m an inveterate optimist if it comes to reading, even when it concerns boys. They do read.
But there are some preconditions.
First of all the book needs to be good. It needs to be a stories about stuff they’re interested in. Young adult boys have a vast range of topics that appeal to them: girls, scooters or cars, experimenting, hanging about… Not necessarily in that order.
There are way more issues that grab them. The young adult struggle for independence and the inevitable testing boundaries offer an author a myriad of possibilities to write about, in reality, dystopian, science fiction or thriller setting.
There are plenty books out there that work for young adult boys. I only have to name Andrew Smith‘ The Marbury Lens or John Green’s Looking For Alaska. And there are plenty more out there. For more titles, check out Books for Boys or the famous goodreads list.
But what does it need to have a young adult boy actually pick up a book? I think progress is helping us out here. Where most young adults boys don’t mind schlepping around an extra battery for their tinkered-up scooter, they do seem to mind the weight of a book or the mere fact that they might be considered an egghead if they run around with one. And that’s where the e-book comes in handy.
In short: don’t offer them paper books, but offer them electronic versions of well-written, well-crafted books, books that interest them. Books they can download on their computer or, better still, their cell, and read them anywhere, anytime. Books that won’t bust their cool.
What about you? Do you think boys don’t read?
I don’t think it’s so much as a boys versus girls thing so much as social subgroups. Jocks don’t read, and a lot of guys try to be jocks. At the same time, nerds read a lot, and most nerds at a jr. high/high school age tend to be guys (female nerds stay in the nerd closet longer). Even with girls, I’d be curious to see what subgroups read and which don’t, because subcultures seem more important than gender in high school life.
The why is a complicated issue, Grace, but if it’s true that guys don’t read because they want to be jocks, e-books could definitely come to their rescue: read from your cell, mumble something about NFL scores, and no one needs to know it’s a book. 🙂
Thank you for this reminder to focus on the things that boys are fascinated by! Off to make a list right now!
It was good to meet the boys from Boysdontread.com, yesterday! Such a coincidence that I just published this blogpost. 🙂
The most popular Australian writers for boys (and some girls) who are reluctant readers are Paul Jennings and Andy Griffiths. They have been enormously successful in appealing to boys through humour, clever stories and a subversive sense of ‘your parents wouldn’t approve of you reading this’.
However, it’s not as simple as deciding that ‘this is what boys like so that’s what I’ll write.’ A writer has to truly share the boys’ interests and concerns. Paul and Andy have been accused of writing down to attract an audience, but I know that they are both (1) very committed to the craft of writing, and (2) genuinely naughty boys at heart.
I’d be embarrassed to write a book called ‘The Day my Butt went Psycho’. Andy Griffiths is not. Paul Jennings can write about people vomiting spaghetti and be convincing and funny.
You have to write what you feel you are good at, say the things you think need saying, find your own voice, and if it works for naughty boys, you may be lucky enough to do very well out of it.
Trying to pick what you think the market needs will only lead to failure.
Here endeth the lecture.
I love getting lectured by you, Richard! 🙂 I guess I owe you two lunches now.
BTW: I’m a the SCBWI Conference in LA (lots of lectures here, too) and Susanne Gervay says hi!