Much is spoken and written about the difficulties of encouraging boys to read. As with many of these modern day (dare I say middle class) parenting worries, the adoptive parent will want to shout to the world ‘you have NO IDEA what my life is like!’. For many of us, sitting our sons down with an improving novel comes way way down the list of priorities.
So for what it’s worth and with no professional qualifications in the matter whatsoever, here is what has often, but not always, worked in our family:
- Picture books
Picture books, picture books, let me say it again, picture books. They are fun and interactive and they take the pressure off. Some have a fair few words in too. We like ‘Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Book’ by Lauren Child.
- Funny Voices
I have read Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree series voicing Moonface as Derek Hatton and the Saucepan Man as Dot Cotton. It was hard to keep up at times and sometimes Moonface became more Liam Gallagher than Derek Hatton, but it was dead funny.
- Enid Blyton
Many literary types disapprove of Enid Byton’s books because she doesn’t use enough long words. And even as a big fan I must agree that some titles, which I can’t even bring myself to write here, have quite rightly been mothballed. But we love her. There’s just enough danger in her books and the children always come home safely. And there’s usually a know-it-all or a kid who doesn’t like getting dirty to sneer at together.
The Mr Gum books filled a gap that nothing else would. They are bizarre and imaginative and surreal and they provide a useful supply of ludicrous catch phrases. There are lots of pictures amongst the text and they are quick to read. Just remember though THE TRUTH IS A LEMON MERINGUE.
- A Page Each
After a long day at school not sitting still and arguing with your classmates, the last thing you need is your naggy mother nagging you to sit and read a stupid book. Much better if your naggy mother shares the reading with you. It gives you chance to snuggle up to her and realise that she’s not that bad after all.
- Know What to Avoid
In our house Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket and anything too overtly about adoption (sadly the squirrel books, although well-intentioned, are way too obvious).
Good for when times are really hard or the book is languishing in the drawer at school. We like Spike Milligan.
- Have Some Days Off
‘You must read with your child every day’ say the schools. Don’t tell the teacher, but we don’t. There are some days when it just ain’t gonna happen. There are some weeks when it ain’t gonna happen. It doesn’t matter. Bond in front of the television instead. My son and I have recently bonded over The Great British Bake Off and Educating Essex (recorded of course, it’s on far too late).
- The Dead, by Charlie Higson
This is my son’s suggestion for this list. He is eleven. He has fought against reading for a long time and this summer he read this book, by choice. Result.