Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Teen Boys Do Read Books...Really?

Sterling Publishing in New York recognized the disparity between the number of new titles for teenage girls and that for teenage boys and decided to do something about it. I don't have any boys of my own in the 11-15 age group so I can't give an opinion on the gap that Sterling Publishing says is out there, but I do know that I see what seems like countless new titles for girls in that age group and not nearly so many aimed at the boys. So, to me, the question becomes one of those "chicken and egg" types...do teenage boys not read because they don't want to or because there's nothing new and flashy enough to get their attention (Harry Potter and company aside, of course).
Getting some boys to curl up with a good book often isn't easy, with so many social, athletic and high-tech distractions vying for leisure-time attention.

So this past summer, Sterling Publishing in New York, in collaboration with books packager Flying Point Press of Boston, introduced its Sterling Point imprint with eight books, all nonfiction, aimed at a share of the market they say "has been notoriously difficult to reach" - boys between 11 and 15.

This is an especially important age for young readers. "Studies indicate that kids determine whether they are readers or not by the time they are 11 or 12," says Frances Gilbert, editor in chief of Sterling's children's division. "But if you put a really good book in front of a kid, he'll be reading."
Some of the first eight, as well as future books in the series, were originally Landmark Books, a series of more than 100 nonfiction titles published by Random House between 1950 and 1970. Hill, 57, was an avid young reader of Landmark Books and still has some in his personal collection. The Sterling Point editions feature new looks, including covers, maps and, in some cases, updated text and even titles.

Eight additional volumes are planned for this spring, including one brand-new book, the first-person account of a bomber pilot who was captured during World War II; and biographies of two adventurous women, Amelia Earhart and Sacagawea.

Hill notes that one of the series' goals was to find worthy heroes besides "music stars and athletes" for kids to admire.
I suspect that many children decide that they are "readers" a lot earlier than eleven years of age, but I'm all for grabbing the rest of them while they are teens. Reading, and doing it well, is one of the keys to their future and we need to do everything that we can as a society to make sure that youngsters grab that key on their way to adulthood. Bravo, Sterling Publishing.


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  2. Interesting.
    Both my husband and i are avid readers. I was a school librarian - I really KNOW teen fiction. We have thousands of books all over our house. We spend part of every day rading. We read every dy to our now 13 yo son, from birth, and were still doing night timereading at age 12 or so.

    Nothing could be FURTHER from his mind than to pick up a book and read it for pleasure. he will occasionally do so if we make a big point of it, and he does so (he says) during reading time in English at school.

    But reading as a leisure acticity, or something enjoyable. No way! harry Potter didn;t even breach that - the language was far too difficult anyway at age 7 or 8 when they first started appearing. And why read the books when the movies (which he LOVES) will be along in a few months time?

    So, a child who has grown up in a 150% pro reading environment is both a poor and reluctant reader. But how much pushing can you do without totally alienating your child?

    Now, this is a boy with a good imagination, who will still happily be READ TO! It's just the business of rading itself he is too lazy for. We both believe this has affected his academic development, and as he gets older it will get worse. He doesn't sustain concentration, doesn't follow complex arguments and his spelling, thru lack of visual word recognition is appalling. He's got great vocabulary, is very articulate and a fun, outgoing, sporty, musical kid. Like most kids he likes electronic stuff, but doesn't spend all his time on it either - too much else in life to enjoy.

    Will he ever be a"reader" ? I don't really think so. But good on the publishers' efforts. the breakthrough when it comes DOES seem to be in non-fiction.

  3. That's interesting, Sally, and it brings up a good point. I imagine that it is very important to know when to quit pushing on a child because the unexpected backlash can result in making a bad situation even worse.

    I understand your concerns that your son doesn't enjoy books and reading. Both my daughters were that way but, strangely enough, both are now school teachers who enjoy reading like they never did while they were students. One daughter, in fact, has a specialization in teaching those with extreme reading difficulties, children and adults, alike, and does very well in getting children to "turn the corner."

    Don't give up just yet. :-)

  4. Hey i read books and so do alot of other boys at my school. My school has proof that more boys read books. at least 73% of the boys!

    So duh!

  5. Glad to hear it, Guardian.

    That's a good thing.

    So duh!