12. Ideas to reach boys
- Identify ‘peer leaders’ and ‘opinion formers’ among boys. Any connections made here will be very powerful in reaching others, and you could find candidates for Reading Champions.
- Identify any enthusiastic boy readers and use them as book promoters. ‘Students are four times more likely to read something recommended to them by a peer than by a teacher’ (MORI poll, 2003).
- Use committed older readers as ‘reading buddies’ for younger ones, or pair readers of a similar age.
- Use short-term reading challenges, with prizes and lots of feedback. Boys in particular like to know how they’re doing, and have achievable goals.
- As well as making fast-paced action heroes easy to find, don’t forget to show different kinds of masculinity in fiction - Tom Kelly’s The Thing with Finn, and Alex Shearer’s Tins, for example.
- Make connections between fiction and non-fiction. Not just curricular connections (the Holocaust and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, for example), but fun connections, and ones that link curricular subjects to leisure reading - the science behind science fiction, for example.
- Schemes like Readathon can appeal to students’ sense of challenge - the badges and stickers help too, as does the money-raising dimension.
- Recruit students as pupil librarians. Boys in particular respond well to being given responsibilities, and it can help all students’ self-esteem. The SLA has a great new toolkit for Pupil Librarians, with all the work (certificates, letters to parents, interview questions) done for you. Available to SLA members, you can download it at http://www.sla.org.uk/pupil-toolkit.php.
- Some boys (like the present author!) are keen to show off their speaking skills. If you have a debating group, what about a book-related debate? What about using boys to read funny poems aloud? They could do this on to CD, complete with different voices and sound effects, or make a podcast reading their favourite extracts from books for the school website, for other pupils to listen to or download. A great opportunity to work with your drama department!
- Inter-class (or inter-house) book events - quizzes, for example - can help boys gain prestige by representing their team.
- Use the library as an event venue - Games Workshops (Lord of the Rings-based ‘Warhammer’ gaming clubs), chess tournaments, talks, quizzes.
- The Kids’ Lit Quiz can motivate boys particularly, appealing to their competitive instincts.
- Get boys involved in book awards - either shadowing national ones, like Carnegie and Kate Greenaway, or judging for one of the growing number of lively local ones. Regional book awards give an opportunity to meet up with reading boys from nearby schools, and other reading groups.
- Reading Groups can be mixed gender (useful for boys to share their reading tastes with girls, and vice versa), or ‘boy only’. They could be themed (Harry Potter Fan Club, Graphic Novel or Manga Group), or they could feature a boy-friendly genre like sports stories or science fiction
- Reading Group activities that attract boys include reading plays together, introducing non-fiction books about a hobby or interest, and researching author details on websites
- Many schools report that once boys find success and enjoyment in club type activities, this spills over into academic life too.