Boys and reading


My passion is to write for children. I get so much enjoyment from it, sometimes laughing aloud while alone and writing! I enjoy writing this blog too, for it allows me to communicate adult concepts and pushes my writing practice. But essentially, I’m happiest writing for children of between five and twelve years old.

I have fun writing about animals that get up to mischief, and the reality of life. I enjoy the challenge of writing about tough or sensitive subjects that will prompt young minds to think, topics that can affect their lives and create change. I haven’t had any children’s work published as yet, however I know from comments from publishers that I’m inching closer to having that dream become reality.

Mostly, I write with boys in mind, stories that engage and entertain, tales that engross boys to read a story from beginning to end. This interest arose from reading to my three boys daily and watching the enrichment it brought to their play and life. Seeing them blossom through stories propelled me to want to write for young children.

So I began writing whilst working in education and three years in, noticed parents, educators and researchers saying repeatedly that boys weren’t reading. That intrigued me. I was also dissatisfied at the time at the array of stories available to my children back fifteen years ago and as a writer saw this as a challenge. What could I do through my writing to encourage boys to read more? What would it take to write something that would appeal to, and interest, boys? What would stir ‘non-reading boys’ to read?

My curiosity prompted me to do a research project as part of a Masters into boys and reading. I wanted to know whether boys were reading and if they were, what were they reading and why. And if they weren’t reading, I wanted to know why not.

My research focussed on adolescent boys and reading, those that slipped through the system and had poor reading skills. I hoped to discover why those boys weren’t reading and what words, phrases, themes and story structures I could use to write fiction that would engage even the most reluctant adolescent boy readers. I wanted to find that magic ingredient.

I reviewed some of the research undertaken by educationalists, writers and other researchers and a number of theories on the reasons why some adolescent boys were reluctant to read, and why some were reluctant to read fiction. I looked at the kinds of fiction that adolescent boys did enjoy reading and some of the writing strategies and devices writers could use to write fiction to interest adolescent boys.

I completed this research almost eight years ago to find no one, simple answer, no magic formula on how to write fiction for boys or to attract reluctant readers. I uncovered many interesting aspects, such as how loosely the term ‘boys don’t read’ was thrown around and how generalised the term was. I found that while there were adolescent boys who didn’t read or were reluctant to read, many adolescent boys were reading, just not the fiction in libraries that girls were reading.

According to my research, of those boys that did read, fewer boys than girls were reading fiction and many boys were more likely to read nonfiction. Not surprisingly, the importance of adult male reading role models for boys came up and I saw that often, female librarians chose many of the books in school libraries.

My study undoubtedly enriched my understanding of writing for boys and proved to me that the most important aspects on writing for them were to include humour, making the action of the story more important than character development and writing from personal experience to make the story realistic and relevant to boys. It was important too, to appeal to their sense of anarchy, rebellion, sport and adventure.

So my stories needed to be realistic in language, expression, emotion and experience, they needed to be adventurous, fast-paced and active. And I’m working on those things.

Today, the issue of boys and reading has changed significantly with a larger variety and scope of books for boys to read than ever. Male reading role models have become more visible, stories are more action packed and funny, sometimes so silly and absurd … and of course, boys love it! I don’t need to go far to see that as I see it in my youngest son and in what he reads today.

Thank you authors and publishers for taking on that challenge.

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