Monday, October 11, 2010

Getting Boys to Read in a Pink and Sparkly Book Aisle

 Boys are tough nuts to crack… many boys, due to peer pressure, try and avoid being seen with a book in their hands that isn't the latest hit among their friends. Unless the book is something about cars, boys that get into trouble, sports or war – they're not going to go near it.

A YALSA study of boys averaging age 14, polled boys asking why they don't read: "answers included "boring/no fun" (39 percent); "no time/too busy" (30 percent); "like other activities better" (11 percent); "can't get into the stories" (8 percent); and "I'm not good at it" (4 percent)" (Jacobs, 2008, p. 27). Apparently in fourth grade is when things start to slide downhill. One of the reasons stated is that, again, reading is seen as a girly thing and boys try to avoid it like being smooched by their mother in front of the school.  The article also points out that it is in middle school where the books get thicker and have less and less pictures – things get serious here, including the research required for homework. I believe that this is where librarians can step in by promoting graphic novels and manga to allow tween boys a break from treading in deep water. The point of suggesting books that offer something else than the standard required reads at school is to offer something fun that makes reading less of a challenge/chore.

There's a danger zone for librarians, I think, especially since many of us are women and tend to read books that include emotions and relationships as personal reading choices. What happens often is that not enough boy books are read and there's little to draw from when suggesting a book to a boy, which is why I plan to try and balance out what I am reading for both boys and girls. I noticed that when I was in school, a lot of the in-class reads were books more geared towards girls; many of my teachers were women, so that may have played a role in how things turned out. I don't know how many boys enjoyed reading The House on Mango Street

I think that one way to encourage boys to read is to lead by example – have the men in their lives that they look up to read books. Using male celebrities, like sports stars or actors to encourage reading is a step in the right direction. It would be nice to see READ posters shot more from the style of paparazzi – where the star looks as if they're unaware of the camera and is reading a book and enjoying it. The goal is to show that reading books – especially the fun ones – doesn't have to be done in the safety of a bedroom.

Genres that appeal to boys: adventure, biography, crime and detective, ghost stories, graphic novels, historical novels, horror, humor, informational books, sci-fi, sports, spy novels and war stories

Boys also like magazines and newspaper articles

References:
Jacobs, M. (Sept 2008). Guys read guys books: what's the secret to boys and reading? Give them books about things they like: adventure, biography, science fiction, sports, and yes, even gross humor.  Scouting, 96, 4. p.26(5). Retrieved October 11, 2010, from General Reference Center Gold via Gale.

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