About that Boy Thing

In my post yesterday, I mentioned how Captain Underpants appeals to the "boy" in Jason. In an interesting bit of serendipity, I came across a Wall Street Journal article, Problem: Boys Don't Like to Read Solution: Books that are Really Gross:

Publishers are hawking more gory and gross books to appeal to an elusive market: boys -- many of whom would rather go to the dentist than crack open "Little House on the Prairie." Booksellers are also catering to teachers and parents desperate to make young males more literate.
"There has been a real revolution" in books that "have more kid appeal," especially when it comes to boys, says Ellie Berger, who oversees Scholastic's trade division. "It's a shift away from the drier books we all grew up with."

But not everyone is happy with this "trend":

Jan Harp Domene, national president of the Parent Teacher Association, decries what she calls publishers' "shock tactics" to reach young males. She wants boys to read about the heroes of Greek mythology, the fantasy of Jules Verne and the antics of Tom Sawyer. "Does it all have to be blood and guts and gore?" she asks.
And according the article, the answer is yes.

I always find it interesting in discussions about "why boys don't like to read", the biggest culprit usually winds up being that there are just not enough books that are interesting enough for boys. While I obviously believe that this can come into play and I do agree that being able to read books that are interesting is something that is critical for kids to develop an enjoyment of books, I also believe that there are many other factors involved.

Factors such as: being taught in ways that go against their natural learning style (such as pushing phonics with right-brained kids), pushing reading before a child is ready (which can be as late as 8 - 10 years old for right-brained kids), testing kids on what they have read, accelerated reading programs that assign points based on the difficulty of books and reward kids with prizes, only valuing physical reading and not "counting" audio books, and making reading "required" (by requiring a certain number of minutes, forcing kids to read out loud or by making kids finish books that they do not like). You can read more about my take on "required reading" from this earlier post.

One of the things that I find interesting is that, despite my earlier post about using Captain Underpants to encourage Jason to read...I would definitely not consider Jason a "reluctant reader". He absolutely loves and devours books. His preference however is either for me to read out loud or audio books. So my using Captain Underpants was to encourage him to physically read a book...not to get him interested in books in general. 

Jason's main reason for not wanting to sit and read a book is that he finds it a bit boring to sit still so long...when he is listening to a book, he can also being doing something else such as building with his legos and playing with clay. He is an active kid and loves to be moving. When he was younger our read aloud times were spent with me reading on the couch and him flinging himself off it or jumping on our mini-trampoline. Or if we were in his room, he would take a huge running leap and freefall onto the bed. And yes, he completely was able to follow and understand.

Jason also says that he enjoys listening to books more because it is easier to "see" the book. As a right-brained learner, he thinks in pictures and, especially when he first started reading, decoding the words can sometimes interfere with his visualization of the book. He is actually a very strong reader and can read almost anything, but he does prefer highly visual books to make the "catching the visual" easier.

Now here is the interesting thing. Jason does not only enjoy "boy" books. If you look at his Book Ratings (which we need to update!) you will see that he rated The Secret Garden as an "A - Great". I read Little House on the Prairie when Jason was younger and he enjoyed it. Both boys also enjoyed The Higher Power of Lucky (which has a girl protagonist and had nothing to do with shooting or blowing anything up). It really does not matter much if the protagonist is a girl...he is more interested in the whether the story is interesting. His repertoire includes lots of fantasy, classics and award winning books as well as graphic novels and comic books.

I really feel that it has been our use of audio books combined with my valuing his choices in reading that has fostered his love of books. His use of audio books allowed him to satiate his desire for good stories and develop a wonderful relationship with reading, even as a "late" reader.

So yes, I do use "boy" books to encourage him to sit and physically read a book. And also sometimes to capture his interest in more academic areas (such as Murderous Maths and Horrible Histories). And yes, he does love gross stuff. And funny stuff. And interesting stuff. Luckily I do not need to do anything to encourage him in devouring books in other ways. He is incredibly open to books that I pick up. And yes, he has even chosen for me to read a book rather than play a video game.