Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A book where men may read strange matters


Annie recently mentioned a bright but book-averse 13-year-old, and now a survey for Pearson indicates that 70% of boys can’t make it beyond the 100th page of a book. It’s suggested that the fault lies with the choice of set texts, but since the books singled out for criticism include Macbeth (violence and skulduggery that make the Bourne series appear rather tame, and a hero who’d fit in quite nicely on The Apprentice) and Of Mice and Men (doomed, dysfunctional bromance, plus violence), I can’t really see it; in any case, neither of them is particularly long.

So should we tinker with reading lists, and include more books that will engage the attention of pubescent males? And if so, which books? Or should we just accept that, as long as they’re functionally literate, plenty of people – not only boys – are happier in a book-free world?

13 comments:

Annie said...

I keep telling myself that I'm just on a bit of a break from books, but the truth is that break has lasted quite some time now. I think I just prefer things with flickering lights?

Terrible.

Boz said...

We don't really encourage concentration very much. There's quite a lot of shiny and distracting things around.

I left a bunch of graphic novels lying around to tempt my nephew into reading. Had to choose carefully though; he would only go for the ones that he couldn't get a DVD of instead.

blackwatertown said...

Set texts? Captain Underpants anyone? Though that's setting the sights very low for 13-year-olds.
Nine & ten-year-olds like those Alex Rider books by Anthony (Antony?) Horowitz and the Young Bond series by the guy who used to be in that band.
I suspect it comes down to whether or not you were read to when younger and whether or not you witnessed your parents enjoying reading.
Does it really matter? I have a charming, interesting, very intelligent, well-rounded, well-travelled, can cope in various languages friend who never reads. And if he does it's something to do with money. Good company all the same.
So does it really matter? Yes.

blackwatertown said...

Just remembered - Charlie Higson wrote the Young Bond books.

expat@large said...

The only reading material I remember caring about or even recall looking at when I was 13 years old had a fold-out centre page. This applied until I was 53.

I remember nothing (book-wise as well as generally) from years 7 and 8., so I can recommend nothing that will grab kids of that age now.

Then, in year 9 we "studied" Catcher In The Rye and The Tequila Mockingbird and I was hooked on serious books. Seriously.

Tim Footman said...

On the other hand, Annie, you have a life.

Very good point, Boz. Might go some way to explain the cult status of Catcher in the Rye, Confederacy of Dunces, Wasp Factory, etc... No movie.

I bloody love Captain Underpants, BWT. And Mr Gum. Maybe I shouldn't have said that...

Mockingbird is forbiddingly long, e@l, at least according to the analysis above.

Billy said...

When I was a teenage boy, the thing to read was horror fiction, particularly those with sex in them too.

Win-win.

@FayC said...

My daughter loves to read, my son not so much! She will read anything, he is a lot fussier. When he was younger, the type of stuff when he chose to read were fact based books like The Guiness Book of Records or oddly one or two of Martina Cole's offerings (which were sometimes on the gruesome side)
Now he's older although his first love isn't reading, he has improved. I think it is therefore important to appeal to boys to encourage them in the first place! Otherwise how do we prise them away from their game consoles?!

blackwatertown said...

AH no - not the Guinness Book of Records. Is he some kind of weirdo?

blackwatertown said...

Er... Upon reflection that was not a wise comment. It was not your son I was trying to weakly slag off, but... you know... See me. See English. I'd be better off doing what the Queen does. Sticking to a language no one understands.
Slán for now.

Tim Footman said...

Billy: I have unpleasant memories with a scene in a James Herbert novel, involving a school gymnasium and a pair of shears.

Hello, FayC. I think the most important thing is to reinforce the mindset that books aren't weird or girly. Once, that's done, he can be left to his own devices.

And I don't think BWT was suggesting your offspring might be a weirdo - just that Guinness is fact-based. :-)

Tim Footman said...

*isn't* fact-based, I mean. Kenneth Clarke backtracks, now we're all at it...

The Militant Working Boy said...

Perhaps the most notable of my literary ventures during that era of my existence was lugging "Anna Karenina" around in my backpack and digging it out in places where I was likely to be noticed and praised, like the ice rink or school.

Only late at night, under the covers with a flashlight, would I dare sully my reputation as a classical literature aficionado by reading and thoroughly enjoying the latest "Harry Potter" book.