Monday, August 18, 2014

Male Models Needed... Male Reading Role-Models, That is...

I recently read an (albeit slightly dated) article from Scouting Magazine titled, "Guys Read Guy Books." In the article, Mary Jacobs cites research that shows that boys are reading less and are less enthusiastic about reading than girls. This is a problem.

She also refers to a statement by William Brozo, a professor of literacy at George Mason University:
Brozo adds that those are the years when masculine identity becomes paramount for boys—and many boys see reading as a “girl thing.” 
But the star of the article seems to be Jon Scieszka (author of The Stinky Cheese and Other Fairly Stupid Tales) and his proposed solution: a website known as "".

I'm all for getting more boys to read, but I've never been entirely comfortable with such programs as these, believing that they further entrench male stereotypes— stereotypes that I think got males into such trouble in the first place! This quote from Scieszka in particular got my panties in a bunch:

Little House on the Prairie might be a wonderful book, but if you’re an 8-year-old boy, it’s not the book that’s going to light your fire and get you reading.

Little House on the Prairie was a favourite of mine as a boy. Did this make me less of a boy? If Scieszka is suggesting so, I'd suggest where he could stick the book, but perhaps it's thanks to Laura Ingalls Wilder, I'm too much of a gentleman for that.

But my point for this post isn't to debate Scieszka's program (though feel free to do so in the comments below). My point is that I was reminded of the "girl thing" again this morning when I saw this poster from the American Library Association this morning:

And I thought, images of men reading should be a campaign (if it hasn't been one already). Boys need to see men reading, to know that it isn't a "girl thing." Reading is not gender-specific!

So, on Twitter this morning I started asking for photos of men reading books. They might be your husbands, boyfriends, boy-friends, self, sons, uncles, grandfathers, neighbours, whoever (just ask permission first!). Upload them to Twitter with the hashtag #boysreadtoo. Feel free to upload them to Facebook, Blogger, Instagram, or whatever social media that's currently diverting your attention. It doesn't matter what they're reading: Little House on the Prairie or a John Wayne biography. It doesn't matter if they're a basketball player or a kindergarten teacher. Get the image out there: 



Not me.


Melwyk said...

I so agree with you John. The idea that there are 'boy' books and 'girl' books irritates me immensely. I find that author Anne Ursu writes very well on this topic; she often talks about it on twitter too.

John Mutford said...

Thanks Melwyk!

Anonymous said...

This topic rears its head every few years. From 25 years in the trenches (grades 5-7) I can report that there are books guys read and books girls read. There are also some guys and some girls who cross the line between these sets of books. It's always been this way. It's largely true for adults, too.

This doesn't bother me. What the kids read on their own time is really their business. That they are able to read is mine.

I also read the Little House books back in fourth grade probably and loved them. I read them all.

John Mutford said...

Thanks James, my point isn't that there aren't some generalizations but that a solution to getting more boys reading shouldn't rely on those generalizations.