Getting Boys to Read

Banned Books week

For many young people, boys in particular, reading is not perceived as a desirable pursuit. It’s not seen as cool or the kind of thing ‘lads’ should be doing and there is still a strong stigma attached to being geeky and nerdy amongst a large proportion of teens, despite these labels being embraced, and even coveted, by many adults. British author Nick Hornby has come up with a suggestion for how to get boys to read – telling them not to. In an article in today’s Independent Hornby outlines how he managed to trick his own son into developing an interest in reading for pleasure by telling him certain books were ‘highly inappropriate’ and ‘one of the most banned books in America.’ In the article it states that ‘Studies continue to reveal that boys of early reading age lag behind their female counterparts for literacy.’

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‘If we don’t break the barriers to reading when they are young they may be doomed to a bookless life, and that is a depressing prospect for anybody.’

This is clearly a genuine problem and having worked on a highly successful reading project in a secondary school in Brighton, I can’t help but see the genius in this approach. The one thing young people fear the most is the mundane, they don’t want to be bored (who does?), but enticing them with something illicit and a little bit naughty – that works. There is little point in attempting to get young people to read sanitised books about well behaved children when what they are really after is sex, drugs and rude words.Β I remember all too well crowding around Judy Blume’s Forever in the school library, which fell open at the ‘sexiest’ pages (do you remember the infamous Ralph?). Of course looking back it was very innocent but at the time it was exciting and alluring, and although I personally never needed any encouragement to read, it definitely drew in many of my peers that may otherwise have shown no interest.Β 

Of course this approach won’t work with everyone but it is worth a try.Β The way I see it is that when it comes to encouraging boys to read we should take a ‘whatever works’ approach, because if we don’t break the barriers to reading when they are young they may be doomed to a bookless life, and that is a depressing prospect for anybody.

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6 thoughts on “Getting Boys to Read

    1. That must have been really tough for you, it’s so lovely that you have managed to overcome it and develop a love of reading though. Thanks for commenting. πŸ™‚

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  1. This is a really interesting post πŸ™‚ Luckily, my son (aged 7) loves reading and being read to, but illiterate secondary school students are not unheard of in the UK. So, I completely agree, not only would the ‘whatever works’ approach mean that boys might not be doomed to bookless lives but it would also help narrow the gap in literacy rates between boys and girls.

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    1. It’s so great that your son is into reading, it will make such a difference to his life. It’s really sad to see secondary school kids who just don’t see it as something for them. Thanks for commenting. πŸ™‚

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  2. I would love to have a list of recommended “banned” books for my almost 13 year old son who is not a fan of reading. Good article! We’ll try anything and he would surely love this idea!

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