Some (rambling) Thoughts on Boys & Reading

These thoughts came about while watching the #BoysAndMen tag on Twitter from the London Book Fair yesterday, and getting involved in the online discussions, I am stillupset at missing out on going!

Anyway… on to my thoughts:

One thing I do know for sure is that it is very hard to turn a reader into a non-reader

Some other things of which I am aware:

    Boys read fewer books than girls
    Women buy and read more books than men do
    Some boys do read
    Not all girls read

I have seen gendered reading schemes focusing on young male readers, The Dads and Lads, Mothers and Sons groups being the most widely spread but I have never seen a reading scheme focusing on solely on girls (if anyone knows of any please let me know!)

I have been in the UK for 13 years now and have worked with teens in libraries for a large part of that time. A decade ago it was all about getting teens into libraries and reading, as the resident teen library person in the local authority that I was working in that task fell to me and a couple of colleagues, one of the biggest fights I had was to be allowed to run events for the teens that actually used the library rather than the ones that did not want to be there. Prevailing wisdom seemed to think that we already had the ones that came to us so they were not a problem; I won that fight as I stood firm in my belief that if you build a better teen library service they will come! (it does work!)

The most success I had at getting boys to read was in mixed groups, in the past boys used to see where girls were congregating in the library and follow them in.

I have found that non-readers on their own or if there are only one or two in a group where the focus is on reading will soon fall into reading. Problems arise when non-readers in a group form the majority and then they feed off each other’s antipathy to reading, this strengthens their resistance to picking up a book and they can distract the attendees that actually want to read.

Divide and rule by peer pressure can be positive if engineered correctly.

I believe that it is nurture over nature that influences a person as a reader. I am the middle of three brothers; we were all brought up in the same household surrounded by books and regular trips to the library for story-times. I love reading and owning my own books, my younger brother enjoys reading and my older brother (and his wife) are bringing up their children with a love of reading, as does my younger brother and as will I.

I have also seen youngsters that come from homes with few to no books pick up a book and fall into reading but they are a minority.

What I would like to know is what makes young readers readers – I am not talking about peer suggestions, advertising or pop culture attractions but rather what in their lives led them to pick up a book and fall in love with the act of reading. Every child loves being read to – even teenagers but what is lost or made stronger when they have to read the stories to themselves?

When it comes to reading the United Kingdom does its utmost to engage citizens from birth, with Bookstart Packs for babies and toddlers. Even with the public service cuts libraries still run baby & toddler times and story sessions and it is all free!

So if anyone would like to add comments or suggestions please do so below!

2 Thoughts on “Some (rambling) Thoughts on Boys & Reading

  1. I have three teen sons who are keen readers (one love to escape through books, one likes to read about history and war and one likes facts books). Having said that – none of them are great about going to the school library and their friends are not necessarily great readers. Their reading has progressed because I am proactive about it, chatting about and recommending books and also because one teacher at school runs a reading group which has caught one son’s interest.

    I know that statistics show a difference between boy and girl readers but I think what matters most about encouraging reading is knowing your readers and knowing your books. Whether people read or not is, to me, not really about their gender. Its about their character, their interests and the environment they are in. Some parents provide a home environments that encourage reading but in the absence of this being available in every home. then schools need to help out.

    However, it is also about having realistic expectations. Some children are simply going to read less than others; just like some will like sports or cooking or dance or computers more than others. Some may not read at all – I find that sad and I do think its limiting. But who am I to talk? I couldn’t wait to drop maths at 15 and people who love maths would see that as a crying shame.

    So do I think its nature or nurture? I think it is both. It is about the character of the person and their interests – but it is also about recognising (for existing readers) or finding (for reluctant readers) that interest and then nurturing it.

    Its much the same with regards to sports. My sons are interested in specific sports – its either because they copied what they saw at home or because they were inspired by a teacher or because they found it came naturally to them. Any sport that they progressed beyond the confines of the school sports’ lessons resulted from someone stoking their interest – either we talked about it at home or their teachers saw they had an aptitude and encouraged an interest.

  2. Susan Dunaway on April 16, 2015 at 10:01 pm said:

    I am not a reader…I never found many that caught my interest…..I went to a different school every year so maybe I’ll use that as an excuse.
    I had two daughters ,one read what she had to or what was popular at the time. The youngest daughter got caught up in a girls series ,here in the states. She had a book laying on every table ,china hutch ….even in the bath room…they were called The Babysitters Club. They were basically all the same but the point is she was reading. When we would go on vacation I would buy like ten of these books for the week. I had to ration these out to one a day or they would be read in two days(seriously)
    We worried at the time that the weren’t well written but she was reading. So my belief is first find something they are interested in…this is definitely up to the parent and it does take some work on their part. To this day she reads as much as she can …often sending me text about what books I should read…and I do . I might also add she is one of the most well rounder thinker in our family…constantly looking at both sides of the issues.
    so maybe things are a little boring for boys…I fill this way encouraging them to READ anything is good, Comic books might be a way to start.

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