The challenge of getting boys reading is a tricky one, and research shows us that boys will spend less time reading outside the classroom! So what can be done?
Here’s my top tips to get boys into books and reading!
Fiction with flawed characters and special characteristics will interest boys!
Books with flawed characters really seem to appeal to boys. They may see reading as something which is too goody goody; but give them a strange flawed character, then suddenly, it might be of interest. (It’s the same for girls, of course too, it has to be said, but if the focus is boys, it does sometimes present a different challenge.)
Books with disastrous storylines or weirdly odd characters, which boys can relate to will get their interest. Great examples of this~ The BFG, Revolting Rhymes, Harry Potter, Mr. Stink and A Boy Called Christmas. I’m sure you can think of many others.
Use comedy and bad attitude!
It’s true if you can ‘make ’em laugh’ then they will come back for more. Boys love to get a reaction. They like to shock and discover funny lines to quote with each other, so they can shock together in a group. If a book lets them be outrageous and take risks with their jokes, then the boys will want to read it. We all know those boys who love a reaction~ a recoiling listener in their mist! If they are reading something which gets them giggling them they will want to tell their friends and talk about it. They will want to tell you the funny, smelly or even rudest stuff, they love a wisecrack! They want revulsion and repulsion to get their reading gases pumping. Keep it real and revolting and they will come back for more. They won’t want glossy sparkles and twinkles; they want mud, sticky, slimy, bottom humour all they way! Roald Dahl knew with his Twits characters. He could be as gruesome as he wanted with these two rotten, sleazy beings. Horrid Henry written by Francesca Simon indulges our appetite for bad attitude characters. She cleverly shows just how much fun a badly behaved character can be to read about.
Grandads and guys!
Grandads are so great at making books look cool. They ooze wisdom and everyone wants to listen to them. This also works for lots of male role models. When boys see guys reading, it becomes the norm and it becomes cool. I’ve had classes laugh at Michael Rosen’s chocolate cake poem over the years, his face pulling poetry is so addictive. I remember years ago, a policeman (my teaching assistant’s husband) kindly coming to my class and reading a story to the children. They were mesmerised and so was I. His Irish accent and brilliant story voice made it so captivating. I saw the boys listening so hard, we could have heard the sound of a pin drop. Good male role models are a brilliant way of getting boys sat down and reading together. (I’ve picked out granddads, as they seem to be the most determined to have fun with books and have given Pongy some of it’s best reviews.)
Be smelly and rude!
Children love to be read things with ‘rude’ words; smelly, grizzly, pooey; they all work well . It’s captivating to hear an adult talk using character voices, or say something funny which they have read out loud. Boys and girls will roar at a character who has got themselves in a pickle, they love disasters along the way, especially if they stink! It seems new rules can be made. What’s acceptable changes using stories which pop out the odd silly rude word. A story can do the strangest things and imagination is allowed to run wild. Nothing is too risky! Smells and farts are only the beginning. Roald Dahl, was of course, the master with this sort of writing. He knew that it was important to entertain the reader and hold their interest. Other writers have followed this lead, David Wailliams and many comedians, show us that making the reader howl with laughter is a sure way of keeping them happy. Now have; Mr. Stink and Pongy Stinkbelly, and more following in this smelly legacy. These books stay true to distasteful themes. Whiffs and farts, are never off the menu, the more, the better, pack them in!
The other week, I gave bookmarks out for Halloween this year and hear giggles all the way down my street with boys laughing at his name, shouting Pongy Stinkbelly! Let’s face it, any books with rude, smelly or impolite characters are gonna impress the boys!
The smellier, the better; fresh smelling stories won’t cut it with boys.
Themes for facts and fiction
A great theme can clinch the deal with boys sitting to read. Sport- themed books work so well. Football, rugby, golf, cars and trains will all appeal to our boys, and there is a wealth of books around all of these. Boys will enjoy non-fiction. They can sink their teeth into the facts and figures. Don’t overlook magazines, annuals and comics, just because they ate not books, as they are great to encourage boys to read more. Special favourites of boys are often joke books or The Guinness book of World Records. These will get boys reading and talking!
So that’s it!
Get smellier, ruder, crazier, funnier. Make it; loathsome, appalling, gruesome, nasty, nauseous, sickening, sleazy, stinking, foul and putrid, and you’ll be onto a winner!
Happy reading all!
(What’s that? Can somebody open a window? Phewwww!)