Over the weekend the New York Times published an article on boys and reading. To me, the gist was that teenage boys aren't really reading, and that is in part because there aren't really books targeted at them.
Well, some people voiced their frustration with the article. They took it differently than I did. I felt the main idea from this counter-post was that boys should learn to see themselves in books with female characters.
And then I read this post on Novel Novice, and this is exactly why I like her blog. And I felt like her main point was: the goal is to get boys to read, and if marketing books specifically to boys gets them to read, that isn't a bad thing.
Since I read a bunch of boy books this summer, I feel like I'm obviously an expert in this area. (please note my sarcasm) I've got to agree with Novel Novice, that the goal is to get boys to read. And I don't think the current YA market is targeting reluctant male readers.
Like, not at all.
So my two cents:
1. Books written by men, and targeted at boys, are very different from books written by women. And I'm devoting a ginormous post to the differences I noted, just by reading a few boy books.
2. I think one of the best ways to get a reluctant reader into reading is to give them a book where they can see themselves in the story. Whether that's by identifying with the character, or being interested in the conflict, or enjoying the subject matter, something has to speak to you.
I wasn't a reader until that happened for me. And it's so great to read a book that feels like your favorite pjs and shoes that have molded to your feet. I'd never found that in a book until I felt like I was reading about me. And then I read a whole bunch of other books and found myself in a dozen different characters. And then I could branch out and see bits and pieces of myself in characters or situations that were nothing like me.
So, if we want boys to read, we should give them a chance to read about stuff that matters to them. That's specifically for them. Of course it's great to have readers (of any gender/race/orientation/etc) identify with characters who are seemingly an "other," but that's not where to start. I think all readers need to learn to find themselves in books like them, so that they can learn to identify the similarities
in characters and stories that are not.
Thoughts? Do you prefer reading about characters that you think are like you?