Monday, 14 May 2012

Boys Don't Read

 As a lifelong avid reader I must admit I was looking forward to passing on my love of books to any offspring of mine own.  When my son was born I assumed that by having books in the house, reading bedtime stories and generally demonstrating the fabulousness of reading that he would of course follow, eagerly in my footsteps.
 I was wrong.
 He was a boy and boys don't read, do they?
 That is apart from books with facts in them. He would spend hours pouring over books about cars or volcanoes or crocodiles but rarely looked at stories.
I wondered why, surely I had done everything I could to promote a love of reading? Was it just because he was a boy? Were they so different to girls? Well, research would back this up with boys falling well below girls in their literacy levels and many boys being unable to read past level three by the time they started secondary school.
 I was determined to struggle on however, to encourage him to find thesame joy I did in a good story. It's sort of worked. My son is eleven now and he owns many books but the only reason he reads fiction at all is because I spend a large amount of time searching for exactly the right type of book.
He is enormously fussy:

If he doesn't like a book within the first chapter he will stop reading it. 
If it gets boring later on he will stop reading it.
If it is a long book he won't even start reading it.
And if he has to find a book for himself then there's no chance.

 When I was a child I would happily lose myself in a library or a bookshop for hours and there were always many books I wanted to take home with me but he spends most of his time trying to drag me out of bookshops and off to a shop that sells toys or computer games.
 However if I invest the time in finding him the right book he will devour it with passion, take it off to bed with him and read late into the night. But only with the right book. And they are few and far between. Once he'd read all the Roald Dahl's there was Horrid Henry and Mr Gum, Captain Underpants and How to Train Your Dragon but then life became more difficult. Many of the books suitable to his age like Harry Potter and Percy Jackson - although he'd seen the films - were too long/boring/uninteresting to him.
 What was I to do? He needed a book with an exciting story, a great bad guy, lot's of action and all in less then forty thousand words. Finding one seemed an impossible task so one day I sat down and started writing one. I discussed it with him and he eagerly participated in the storyline, the characters and the plot. Every day he would ask me how much I'd written and insist I read it to him. He would make suggestions and act out certain of his favourite bits. He would beg me to write more and sit, rapt as I read my story to him.

Let me tell you, as a writer there is no greater motivation then a child desperate to hear your words!

Overall, it was an immensely bonding experience, it sparked his interest in the written word and I'm pleased to say he is still heavily invested in my work which has now been through several re writes and is currently out on submission...again!

 I have to say that my experience with my son taught me many of the basic rules for writing for boys -

1.Jump straight into the excitement.
2.Have plenty of action and/or humour.
3.Never allow it to get boring or you've lost them.
4.Keep it as short as you possibly can.

It's not an easy task I admit but knowing that you've created a story that could spark a love of reading in an otherwise reluctant boy is hugely rewarding. If my book ever get's published I hope it will do just that for other boys out there. My other fond wish is that my son will develop a lifelong relationship with books, even if I have to write them all myself!
My conclusion, such as it is, is that some boys will read out of love but others will need encouragement and effort and most of all  the right stories so get writing!

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