Do my sons have a date with Dr. Evil?

A couple of days ago there was an article in the Times Online about books and boys and reading, introducing a new series. It brings out the usual "data" about boys not wanting to read as much as girls, and offers a new series as a solution.

The new series, Project X, features three boys, Max, Ant and Tiger, and a girl, Cat, who is something of a tomboy. The four friends are pitched against Dr Evil, a wicked scientist who wants to shrink the world.

Sophie Quarterman, of the Oxford University Press, said the books had very fast-moving plots, plenty of computer-generated images and stories involving teamwork: this has been shown to appeal most to boys.

"Not really," says my son. "I like loners." That's my boy!

I also think it strange that computer-generated images are apparently a Good Thing. Um, Diary of a Wimpy Kid seems to be doing rather well. And I don't see why girls in boy books have to be "tomboys." Can't today's definition of "girl" include classic tomboyish behaviors?

And I am wondering in general about this whole Boys as Reluctant Reader business. It seems to me like it's becoming a oversimplified marketing ploy. I'm not an educator, and so I have little data of my own, but so far there has been no drop off in the reading enthusiasm of any of the eight year old boys I know...and the boys in my son's class are impressive readers. Yet I feel nervous, and anxious, and as though I should buy the Dr. Evil books right now, lest I doom my boys to a future with no books. Oh well. Maybe they are good in their own right.


  1. Author James Patterson has a ten year-old son who doesn’t like to read. So Patterson has established http://www.readkiddoread.com to help other reluctant readers.

    I, too, grew up as a reluctant reader. And my father was the author of over 70 books. Now I write action-adventure and mystery books especially for tween boys. My blog, Books for boys, http://booksandboys.blogspot.com is # 4 on Google today.

    Max Elliot Anderson

  2. I think it's a matter of distributions, Charlotte. As a population, boys are probably less likely to read than girls, for a variety of reasons. But the two populations clearly have a lot of overlap, and I don't think that there's any reason to believe that your boys will ever stop being excited about books. They have the tremendous asset of a mother who reads herself, and reads and talks about books with them, and that puts them on the fortunate, book-loving end of the distribution.

    But maybe I've just had one too many probability and statistics classes in my life...

  3. It's the alliteration, Charlotte -- "reluctant reader" is good and catchy, and it's an easy way to lump together kids who don't read for a variety of reasons. If one of the solutions to the problem is to come up with book formats with those kids in mind, more power to them, so long as other solutions aren't given short shrift.

    But as with the perceived need to make the girls in "boy books" tomboyish, I'm worried that the "reluctant reader" brand may become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and that we will increasingly expect boys to be averse to reading.

    Sounds like you've dodged all that with your kids, so I wouldn't change a thing...

  4. Chris--I think your point about it becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy is one I was vaugly reaching for. I feel somewhat brainwashed--I can look at my boys reading and still feel that they are "reluctant."

    And I think it ties in nicely with Shannon Hale's comments, on not pushing kids away from picture books too soon. Just because an 8 year old is reluctant to committ to a big, long, time consuming tome dosen't mean that he is reluctant to read.


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