It is wonderful to have our first ever guest blog and it comes from local Sydney reader and writer; Daniel McDonald. Daniel is a recent graduate from The University of Sydney and he currently works as an author’s assistant and editor here at EC Services. Following a conversation with some of our readers about how to get boys to read I asked Daniel for his take on boys and reading read on to discover the low-down from a young Aussie bloke’s perspective.
It probably comes as no surprise to anybody, but, thanks largely to the internet, we live in an age where almost all forms of mass media are almost instantly available to anyone. In mere seconds I can be watching a movie or listening to music, and for less than $10.00, I can purchase a video game that will give me hours of entertainment. Despite all this though, there is one form of media that is being neglected: the book. In today’s media environment, it is becoming harder and harder for me to find the time to just sit down and read. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not channelling my inner Baby Boomer to claim that kids playing the latest video game instead of reading the latest Philip Pullman book represents the decline of civilisation as we know it (and not just because I’ve already put 12 hours into the new Assassins Creed while La Belle Sauvage is still on my bedside table). In fact, I’m quite excited to see all the possibilities that this new media environment represents, however, at the same time, I worry that if someone with a lifelong passion for reading is struggling, then how can we expect the next generation, especially young boys, to develop the same passion for books that I did?
Looking back, I can see that my love of reading began because of my exposure to books at a young age. In fact, I am often told stories of how, at the age of six months old, my mother would dress me in an incredibly thick jacket so that I looked like the Marshmallow Man, and take me for a walk to the library. While I was obviously far too young to read, I do think that it was my parents taking the time to expose me to books at such a young age certainly set a trend that would continue for the rest of my life. So, in case it wasn’t obvious, my first suggestion for getting young boys to read is to expose them to books from a young age, be it six months or six years. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a library either (although they are great). Other places, like first- or second-hand bookstores, are great too. Generally, anywhere children can find comfort and be encouraged to read will work wonders.
Obviously though, just going to the library is no substitute for actually reading, just like how reading a bad book is no substitute for reading a good book. It might be a cliche to say that a good book can stick with you for your entire life, but it’s also true. This brings me to my second point, find books your boy will love to read. For younger children, this means choosing interesting books, whether it be Jon Stone’s classic The Monster at the End of this Book, or Elizabeth Cummings’ Verityville series. Generally, if you find a children’s book interesting, so will your child. As boys get older, they will obviously start choosing their own books, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help. While there are the familiar classics available, such as Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings, there are books about all sorts of things, including sports (like the Specky Magee series), as well as more educational topics (the Horrible Histories and Horrible Science books respectively are excellent). Failing that, letting them run (or rather walk) wild in the library is an excellent way to allow them to look into anything that catches their eye. This was always a favourite activity for me growing up, and resulted in me finding some of my favourite books, such as the criminally underrated Beyond the Deepwood.
Getting young boys to read can be a difficult task and sometimes nothing you do will work. But as we know, reading can be a rewarding and educational pastime, so trying is certainly worth your time. Ultimately though, it comes down to finding a book that ensures they want to turn the page to see what happens next. With that I’m off to my library, one can only speculate as to what might happen next!
by Daniel McDonald