Monthly Archives: April 2015

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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!

Celebrate Teen Literature Day (National Library Week USA)

In the United States Librarians all across the country are encouraged to participate in Celebrate Teen Literature Day on April 16, 2015 by hosting events in their library or through their web site on that day.

The purpose of this celebration is to raise awareness among the general public that young adult literature is a vibrant, growing genre with much to offer today’s teens. Support Teen Literature Day also seeks to showcase some award-winning authors and books in the genre as well as highlight librarians’ expertise in connecting teens with books and other reading materials.

Find out full details here:

Celebrate Teen Literature Day

Wild by Emily Hughes

It is the BIG, shiny eyes on the cover that grab me first, then the glorious tangle of hair around the wild girl’s face. The only other shiny things on the cover is the text but next to the eyes they are not immediately noticeable, only when one’s eyes start looking at the book as a whole do they become apparent.

“You cannot tame something so happily wild…”

In this beautiful picture book by Hawaiian artist Emily Hughes we meet a little girl who has known nothing but nature from birth – she was taught to talk by birds, to eat by bears and to play by foxes – she is unashamedly, irrefutably, irrepressibly wild. That is, until she is snared by some very strange animals that look oddly like her, but they don’t talk right, eat right, or play correctly. She’s puzzled by their behaviour and their insistence to live in these strange concrete structures known as ‘apartments’. There’s no green here, no animals, no trees, no rivers.

Now she lives in the comfort of civilisation. But will civilisation get comfortable with her?

The text is sparse and the artwork gorgeous, Wild is a book that can be read and shared time and time again. There is so much to look at and find on all the pages from crabs in the river to skulls underground and more!

I love the story, it is so simply told with the most beautiful illustrations! The faces and body language of both humans and animals are so expressive in their joy, anger, confusion and sadness that they render text almost unnecessary.

I will finish with one last observation on the eyes (I am not ocularly obsessed) I noticed that the girl’s eyes mirror those of the animals in the story with large black pupils and no irises unlike the other humans in the story – it was this small bit of attention to detail that made me love the story even more!

Disclaimer: I won the copy of Wild that I have from Flying Eye Books along with a print of one of the pages.

Lenore: Pink Bellies a review

I am going to be totally honest here and say that I am not unbiased when it comes to Roman Dirge’s comics, I have been a fan since 2004 when I purchased Noogies the first Lenore collection at Gosh Comics and have been hooked ever since.

Lenore is a cute little dead girl who lives in the town of Nevermore with Pooty Applewater a bucket-headed demon and Ragamuffin a vampire doll waiting in a huge house for her parents to return.

So far so weird right? The comic comes with lashings of the blackest humour that will make you feel guilty for enjoying it so much.

The latest volume, Pink Bellies gives the back story of Taxidermy, Lenore’s neighbour who turns out to have a connection with Lenore going back to her very beginnings. You do not need to read previous volumes to pick up this one as although there is a sort of continuity, each collection can be read independently.

While more structured and serious than previous collections, Pink Bellies pokes fun at reality TV, religion and in one memorable scene brings back all Lenore’s dead pets. All in all it is a good wicked read to enjoy if you have slightly twisted tastes* and a fondness for weird stories – hell it will make you care for a pickle hat that gets brought to life – remember I did say weird!

I will say that it is probably not suitable for younger readers – they will probably find it hilarious but if you loan it to them you may get some upset parents coming at you, the hilarious scenes of Ragamuffin getting stuck in a bear come to mind!

Titan Books very kindly sent me a copy after a went a bit excitable after finding out that there was a new Lenore volume out.

*including (but not limited to) the music of Aurelio Voltaire, Invader Zim and Johnny the Homicidal Maniac

National Library Week America April 12-18

It is the American’s turn to celebrate National Library Week.

Today is National Library Workers Day and Thursday will have a focus on Celebrating Teen Literature.

The Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library staff created a parody of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off.” In homage to Taylor Swift and her outspoken support of public libraries and literacy and in celebration of National Library Week.

Comic Book & Graphic Novel Collection free from Taylor & Francis Online

Taylor & Francis Online is making the Routledge comic book and graphic novel collection articles freely available until the end of August.

Take a look here:

Comic & Graphic Novel Collection

Penguin Platform

Penguin Random House UK today launches Penguin Platform, a new online community for 16-19 year olds to call their own where they can share and discover the stories that they love, including ‘Young Adult’, cross-over and adult books. Based on extensive research with young people and named by readers themselves, Penguin Platform is a place for Penguin Random House UK to talk directly to teens about the books they’re reading, deliver exciting experiences around authors, and build on the phenomenal success of its ‘Young Adult’ publishing.

Through branded spaces on Tumblr, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, Penguin Platform gives readers access to an unrivalled list of authors and an ‘inside look’ into the publishing process; the story behind the story. Bespoke book-related content and experiences, shaped by the tastes and preferences of the teen audience, will include author interviews and Q&A, beginning with Owen Jones and Sally Green; home tours with authors including David Hofmeyr; writing advice; an Easter Reads campaign; playlists and book recommendations from authors.

The company will advertise its own products on Twitter and YouTube but there will be no advertising space. It will also link to the books pages on company websites.

The content will be linked together across the different platforms throught the hashtag #PenguinPlatform.






Recommended by a Librarian: PRAESA

This is a bit different from previous Recommendations, but PRAESA is an organisation that should be celebrated for the work they are doing!

Today the recommending Librarian is me (Matt)

What am I recommending?


An organisation that has worked to promote reading and literature for children and young people in South Africa since 1992.

Why am I recommending it?

PRAESA first came to my attention via my friend and colleague Ferelith Hordon who met one of the team members of PRAESA at an IBBY event and told me about them as she thought I may be interested as I am from Cape Town. I looked them up online and saw that they have been doing amazing work. South Africa has 11 official languages and PRAESA works in all of them

I heard on Tuesday that they had been awarded the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award for their work.

PRAESA has three core goals: to provide children with high-quality literature in the various South African languages; to collaborate with and foster new networks among publishers and organisations that promote reading; and to initiate and carry out activities that can help sustain a living culture of reading and storytelling in socially vulnerable communities. PRAESA works in constant dialogue with the latest research and in collaboration with volunteers at the grass roots level.

To encourage children to read in their native languages, PRAESA produced the Little Hands books, a series of short books in different African languages. Another project, the Vulindlela Reading Club, combined oral storytelling with reading, singing games, and dramatizations, and led to the formation of many more reading clubs in Cape Town and other provinces. The national reading promotion initiative Nal’ibali is a network of reading clubs that uses media campaigns to encourage children to read and inspire parents, grandparents, and teachers to read with them.

So I encourage anyone with an interest to look them up online:

Website: PRAESA
Twitter: @ThePRAESA

and celebrate the work they are doing!

PRAESA wins the 2015 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award

The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA) has been around since 2003, and is the world’s biggest prize for children’s and young adult literature. It is given to authors, illustrators, story tellers and “reading promoters” around the world for their lifetime achievements.

Based in Cape Town, theProject for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa (PRAESA) is an organisation that has worked to promote reading and literature for children and young people in South Africa since 1992.

For more than twenty years, PRAESA has made powerful, innovative moves to highlight literature as a key component of both personal and societal development, always grounded in the specific conditions of South African society and culture. Its work focuses on encouraging children to read for enjoyment, building their self-esteem, and helping them connect to their native language through reading and story.

Literacy learning can take place in any language and it is the democratic right of all South African children to use their mother tongues not only to learn the formal school curriculum, but to also access the wonders, mysteries and satisfaction of stories – told and read. PRAESA strives to help enable conditions for learning, inside and outside of school, which motivate children and adults to want to read and write – and enable them to actually do so – in African languages and in English.

To this end, PRAESA concentrates on:

    research and development programmes about bilingualism and biliteracy in early childhood education
    raising the status of the (official) African languages for oral and written language functions in society
    mentoring adults to deepen understandings and appreciation of the value of becoming reading and writing role models for children of all ages and supporting their growing understandings and strategies for achieving this
    initiating the development of materials for use with babies and children in multilingual situations, through original writing and translation.

To find out more about PRAESA and the fantastic work they do, follow this link: PRAESA