Last week, I was very interested to read the article on the Guardian blog post about the issues surrounding boys and reading by Michael Morpurgo. Towards the end of last year, I was involved in 1-to-1 tuition in school and was assigned two Year 8 boys. It was quite interesting as they were both uninterested in reading, but for very different reasons. One was very busy – into sport, music and different outdoor pursuits. The other played on his games console. That was pretty much it. But both struggled to find something to read and enjoy reading, yet both stated that they wanted to read more & enjoy reading. So someone had clearly instilled in them a love of reading, they were just finding it difficult to translate this into actually reading something. The biggest challenge for them was finding a genre that interested them. I struggled a bit here, I have to be honest. I enjoyed reading as a child, and still do. But the types of books that I read were not going to interest these boys! So off to the library we went.
The library was pretty well stocked with a variety of books for teenage boys. I roped the librarian in and we were both suggesting different books, writers, genres etc. It was a process of trial & error. I asked them to try different types of books to see what they liked. That way we could at least remove certain books from the list. They did find some that they liked, but more often than not they didn’t enjoy the stories.
Part of the reason I think is that these boys had a lot of things vying for their attention. One had a lot of commitments and finding time to read was a real struggle. He would often only be able to read at bedtime, but was so tired that he couldn’t do it for any sustainable amount of time. The other didn’t really want to find the time. The other thing is that it didn’t seem ‘cool’ to read. There was always a group of students reading in the canteen. They weren’t the ‘cool kids’ and I think that is part of the problem. You can have as many posters of celebs& sports people reading books around the school, but they aren’t really effective. With so many devices & different ways for students to entertain themselves, reading just doesn’t fit in to that. And with so many books being turned into films, you can always just wait to see it in the cinema!
Schools do a lot to encourage reading. Whether it’s celebrating World Book Day or giving students time to read in tutor time or English lessons, there are already lots of great initiatives going on. It would be good if some kind of recognition was given for this. I agree with Michael Morpurgo’s ideas about more fathers getting involved in reading groups in primary school. Reading has to be seen as something acceptable for boys to do, and not just the geeks. But children also need to be introduced to other methods of reading – audiobooks, for example, would be great on a paper round, or ebooks. Kids love gadgets so why not, as a local school did at the end of term, give them out as prizes or do a deal with a local supplier & get discounts for parents. Have a ‘book group’ wall or blog where the students can review books and recommend new ones. Right now, whatever initiatives are brought into schools need to be cost effective and not burden the students or teachers too much.