Tuesday, 2 December 2014

You can lead a boy to a book...

As usual at this time of year, the subject of reading and books-as-gifts pops up, along with comments about the reading habits (or lack thereof) of boys versus girls.

A report from the National Literacy Trust (commented on here by the Telegraph's Graeme Paton) seems to suggest that you have to use technology to get children - especially boys - to read, while a slightly biased sounding counter-comment 'You can bury your nose in a book but not an iPad' by Channel 4 broadcaster and mother of two girls Cathy Newman in the same paper here suggests that girls read paper books while - if you can get them to do so at all - boys will veer towards technology.

I don't know what the precise truth is, but it seems to me that the important point is that it really shouldn't matter what the delivery platform is as long as children are encouraged to enjoy reading... and at their own pace. As I know from my own childhood experience (way back when paper was the only medium), you can lead a boy to a book (me, reading adult thrillers from the age of 8), but you can't make him read (my brother, less than 12 months but light years away from reading anything at all).

A puzzling comment by Ms Newman was about the likelihood of her daughters becoming 'analogue refugees in a digital world... while boys... are getting jobs in IT or making a mint in whatever new technology is just round the corner'. I'm sure she didn't mean to sound bitter, but that's how it came across, which was a pity. After all, not every techie-leaning boy will get a well-paid IT job, nor every paper book-reading girl settle for something less - and why should they? As for suggesting that even boys - the monsters - can be captivated by seeing real paper books, as in 'even the most stubborn boy finds it difficult to resist the lure of reading when faced with all those exquisite new editions now adorning the shelves', that's surely lurching a little too far into feminism, isn't it?

I'm sure my parents worried about my predilection for comics (which was pretty intense, I admit). But wisely they saw it as a way of me using my imagination rather than going out and getting into trouble, and left books lying around until I started dipping into them. Once caught, and in my own sweet time (or so I probably thought), I was hooked for life.

Instead of constantly telling the world (children included) that boys read less than girls, and in what formats, we should be encouraging them all (gently) to read more, and in whatever way they can. In the process, trying to make ereaders a dirty word is not the best way to do that, in my view.

And if they don't want to read? Well, horses and water. My brother turned out fine, as it happens.


1 comment:

  1. My boys love comic books but until recently it was only the older one who liked reading chunky books. The younger one pooh-poohed not only everything I recommended (Paddington, Famous Five, Swallows and Amazons, Emil and the Detectives) but even what his brother recommended (Harry Potter, The Hobbit, Alex Rider, Percy Jackson). He would read 'How Things Work' and 'Horrible Science' but no fiction. Now he's discovered the humour of Roald Dahl and David Walliams - so it's all about finding something you like... and it doesn't matter where, when, how you read it.