Sunday, 2 January 2011

Books and boys

  • Boys take longer to learn to read.
  • Boys read less than girls.
  • Boys consider themselves less good at reading than girls.
  • Boys value reading as an activity less than girls do.
  • Boys have less interest in leisure reading.
  • More boys than girls declare themselves “nonreaders.”
  • Boys spend less time reading and express less enthusiasm for reading than girls do.
  • Boys increasingly consider themselves to be “nonreaders’ as they get older; very few designate themselves as such early in their schooling, but nearly 50 percent make that designation by high school.
  • Boys and girls read different things.
  • Boys don't like to talk about what they are reading as much as girls do
This is based on a piece of research I stumbled across thanks to Google. I guess this is how the internet works, it throws up random pieces of intelligence. Want to know how to boil an egg? There's a guy in Mississipi who has made a video. Need to replace the battery in your Blackberry? Check out these haikus written in Guatemala by a goat herder.
This was from an American website from North Carolina. What I like about this list is that it neatly sums up the situation, not just in that state but everywhere. Men and boys just don't read as much as women and girls do, or as much as they should.
Men and boys don't take the time.
They don't think reading is interesting enough to divert them from their other, preferred pursuits.
Men are conditioned from a young age to consider a football match worth talking about, but a Thomas Hardy novel 'boring'.
That's a football match that ends nil-nil and a novel in which the lead character sells his wife for beer, becomes Mayor and whatever else. You get the picture.
If they do read a book they'll most likely be on the beach, and the book will be a punchy, gripping rollercoaster ride to a bloody ending. If they get to the end, that is.
Not all men are like this of course. I'm using the broadest of sweeps, but the stats do back up the idea that the male of the species simply doesn't buy or read as many books as the female.
So I've decided that the thrust of this blog from now on - I'm writing this on the 2nd of January 2011 - will be to address this situation. In some small way I'd like to encourage men and boys to seek out books, new authors, new reading experiences, and to put the cliche of male disinterest in the written word to bed.
It's ironic that literature holds up male writers - and male publishers - as the most significant. From Dickens, through Lawrence to Amis, Barnes and Mitchell, men are over represented in the canon.
Women writers, on the other hand, are often overlooked or written off as genre hacks or chicklit writers. The very fact that they constitute the mass market is held against them. And that annoys me too. It's something I'll definitely return to.
I'm not making a gender point here, as such. I'm not saying we should read male authors and not female, quite the opposite in fact. I think we should be open to both, and I think we should constantly revise the idea of the canon, kick the literary snobbery into touch and delve into genre. I want us all to start loving storytelling for its own sake, and to enjoy stories told in their best, most complex, most satisfying form: as novels.

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