BOYS AND READING: IS THERE ANY HOPE (OF US DOING IT LESS)?
August 24, 2011
My name is Charlie Joe Jackson, and first off, there are a few things you should know about me.
The first is, I’m not an actual person. I’m a character in a book. (Don’t ask. Long story.)
The second is, I hate books. In fact, some people have called me the most reluctant reader ever born.
And the third is, apparently a lot of people are worried about me.
That’s right. It seems like all of a sudden, everybody’s talking about boys and reading. Or actually, boys NOT reading.
First, the really successful author James Patterson founded the website readkiddoread.com, because he was concerned that boys – including his own son – didn’t read enough.
Note to Mr. Patterson: I bet I’d get along great with your son.
Then there was Thomas Spence’s September, 2010 article in the Wall Street Journal, in which he suggests, “The secret to raising boys who read… is pretty simple – keep electronic media, especially video games and recreational Internet, under control (that is to say, almost completely absent). Then fill your shelves with good books.”
Note to Mr. Spence: That’s adorable.
And this week, Robert Lipsyte wrote an essay in the New York Times Book Review – just writing the words ‘book review’ sends chills down my spine, btw — entitled “The Lost Boys,” in which he worries that boys don’t read nearly as much as girls. He suggests that a possible reason is because most books for boys are either “supernatural space-and-sword epics that read like video game manuals and sports novels with preachy moral messages.”
Note to Mr. Lipstyte: why do you say “video game manuals” like it’s a bad thing?
Anyway, it appears that adults are very upset about this whole “boys not reading” problem. They want to know, how do we get our sons to read? And if they don’t read, will we be failures as parents and will they be failures as people?
Well, I have one word for all you worried grown-ups out there: RELAX. Because here’s a newsflash: boys read all the time. True, we don’t necessarily read books, but we read other stuff ALL DAY LONG.
Here’s just a short list of things boys read:
1. Text messages. Somewhere around a million a day. That’s a lot of words.
2. Cereal boxes. Not exactly fascinating stuff, but something to do while we’re eating breakfast.
3. Web sites. Don’t even TRY to tell me that’s not reading.
4. Video game instructions. They’re very important, Mr Lipsyte.
5. Sports scores. Reading AND math!
6. T-shirts. Sometimes it’s just one word, but hey, it still counts.
7. Menus. Extra credit if they’re in a foreign language.
8. The viewer’s guide on the TV. At least four times a day.
9. Funny posters in our rooms. I read mine every day, and I still laugh.
10. Movie credits. Because they usually happen at the same time as the blooper reel.
Now don’t you adults feel better? We’re reading all the time! But it’s not just that. We even like some books! Checkbooks for example, especially when they’re used by your grandparents to write you a birthday check. Yearbooks are fun, mostly when girls write you something nice. And Facebook is awesome! (Don’t tell my parents I said that.)
So to Mr. Spence, Mr. Lipsyte and all you worried parents out there, please try to remember that boys aren’t a lost cause. We read all the time. I suspect that some of us are even reading actual book books. And who knows? Maybe one day I might try a book myself!
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got sixty-two text messages to read.