by Dave White
Men don't read.
I hear that all the time. I'll be at a book signing or at a bar or at a school workshop and I hear two complaints. Men don't read. And the other one is "people don't read." I have no solution for this generation. However, I can trace the origin of the problem. And for a minute, I'd like you to forget the other distractions like XBox, iPods, computers, TV, movies and the like...
As discussions go, and researching the way to teach reading goes, the new hot theory is this. Kids need to read books that interest them. That's right, the big theory now is groundshaking. Earthshattering. It's a breakthrough. I'll restate it, just so you have it.
In order to get kids to enjoy reading, they need to read things that interest them.
I mean, I can't believe no one thought of that, he says knowingly. And this leads to the crux of the problem, doesn't it.
People don't like to read because it has always been promoted to them as WORK. You have to read a book and write an essay on it. You have to discuss what goes on in the book. In school, you have to pour over every word and find meaning in it. You can't just enjoy the book. So it is ingrained in you that reading is work. That's going to knock a bunch of readers out to begin with.
Reading is starting behind the 8 ball.
And then we move on to boys. Boys read less than girls. Why? Well, let's go back to the big breakthrough. Kids have to read things that interest them. And what interests boys? Guns, explosions, drugs, sex, music, sports. You know, the fun stuff. The stuff the DSD guys write about.
And where are you exposed to reading mostly? (Especially if your parents aren't readers... Which they should be. Speaking as a teacher, PARENTS... READ TO YOUR KIDS)...
And who teaches kids... especially at a younger age?
And, let's face it. Women have different tastes in literature than men do. It's not a sexism thing. Women like different types of stories. Women pick out stories about a boy who's father won't kiss him good night anymore because he's too old. Women read you stories about ducks and supermarket attendants. I know, I've heard these stories. They're not bad stories. Some are actually really well written, and are going to inspire other girls to read. But you know what? That's not what boys want to read.
When I was in middle school I read James Lee Burke, Ian Fleming, Michael Crichton, and Jefferey Archer. I was reading crime and gang stuff. I was buying Spider-man comics up the wazoo. My dad (there's that parent thing) used to buy me Spider-man stuff when I was in elementary school. I went beyond what the teachers wanted us to read because I didn't like what teachers wanted us to read.
I try to get my kids to read. I remind them, every day, to bring in something THEY want to read. We read gang stories. We read mysteries, both old and new. I also try to mix in the stuff that girls would like too. You have to get everyone to read.
That's why I think THE OUTSIDERS is the perfect book for teens. It's got the stuff that boys like: the violence, the gangs, the blood. But it also has the heart and sappy moments that girls that age like.
Does it sound like I'm being sexist? Maybe. But it's also true, at a young age, boys think girls are icky. And when you are taught by a female with female tastes, AND IT'S CONSIDERED WORK, you are turning off boy readers.
What's the solution? Let kids read what they want. Don't look down on comics or crime novels or books with violence in them. Don't look down on video game magazines. They are reading. And a good book will lead a kid to another good book and so on.
And parents, encourage your kids to read beyond the curriculum. Get them excited. Take them to Barnes and Noble. Take them to the comic shop.
What do you think?