ALA Annual 2012

Boys & Reading #ala12

Boys read. As librarians, we know that’s a fact. Research does indicate, however, that boys typically don’t read as much or as well as girls their same age, and as a result they can fall behind. Some great male writers, beloved by all readers, gave their perspectives on why getting more boys reading is necessary and how we might accomplish that goal:

Funny Business, the first volume of stories in the “Guys Read” series edited by Jon Scieszka. Photo from HarperCollins Children’s Books.
  • Jon Scieszka: Start by asking boys what they want to read. Listen to what they say, and note what are your heavily circulating titles. These should be your go-to titles, regardless of what the library literature has to say.
  • Michael Grant: Escapism has value in encouraging reading. Is the book one the reader is willing to spend time with?
  • Andrew Smith: There are a few dirty words when it comes to encouraging reading: “appropriate,” which casts judgment; and “for,” which excludes potential readers (e.g., books FOR boys, books FOR teens).
  • Daniel Handler: Speaking of dirty words, teen boys in particular like their books to have violent and dirty bits. These parts reflect their own thoughts and conversations with friends. To the young male reader, these parts are just one contributing factor to the overall enjoyment of the book, but censorship-happy adults view even short instances of language and sex as rendering the whole book objectionable.

Some boys don’t read, but there are plenty of clandestine male readers, too. The prevalence of readers who hide their enjoyment of reading suggests there’s something fundamentally wrong with our reading culture–why do boys want to keep their reading secret? The answer to this question could shed light on the whole issue of boys and reading.

How do you engage young male readers at your library?


I am the Children’s Librarian at the Corporate Parkway Branch of the St. Charles City-County Library District in Missouri. I am active in ALSC, and I blog as the Show Me Librarian at

One comment

  1. Max Elliot Anderson

    Boys and reading is an issue I understand well. I grew up hating to read even though my father was the author of over 70 books, I never read them as a child. My life has been devoted to the production of dramatic films, video programs, and television commercials.

    Today I bring that same heart-pounding action and adventure to my adventure & mystery books for readers 8 and up. Kids say that reading one is like being in an exciting movie.

    When the Lights Go Out ISBN: 9781936695478
    Terror at Wolf Lake ISBN: 9781936695966
    North Woods Poachers ISBN: 9781936695058
    Barney and the Runaway ISBN: 9780984559848
    Legend of the White Wolf ISBN: 9781936695690
    Newspaper Caper ISBN: 9781936695263

    Lost Island Smugglers ISBN: 9781935600022
    Captain Jack’s Treasure ISBN: 9781935600145
    River Rampage ISBN: 9781935600152

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