Has the boy-media mafia got to me? Are there, in fact, too many books aimed at boys?
As boys lag behind in the reading stakes, suspicion has fallen on a predominant literary culture of pink. We had Flambards and Ballet Shoes, now there’s Katie Price’s Perfect Ponies and a Darcy Bussell tie-in.
Boys not only have different interests (stereotypically, football and all things muddy, smelly or green), they learn differently too. Typically, they are more kinesthetic, more experiential. In a nutshell, a lot of them they don’t like to sit still.
In a well-meaning attempt to address this in-balance, we’re recently seen an influx of boys’ books. The David Beckham Academy, sensing a gap left in the market by Roy of the Rovers, has produced a whole series of books with names like Bossy Boots. And, until now, regardless of their literary merit, I’ve always thought it a good thing.
Now I’m not quite so sure. Madeline Holler in the on-line parenting magazine, Babble, argues that we should not push boys to read boy only books.
Good children’s fiction, she stresses, deals with themes that appeal to boys and girls alike, the universal struggles of being a kid. Should it matter then if the main character has pig-tails or wears a skirt?
I’d like to agree. Not least because, as Holler argues, there may be a knock-on effect. Men grow up to read only men’s books. Women’s writing (everything from Virago to My Weekly) well, that’s for girls….right? Women’s fiction, so the argument runs, becomes marginalised.
But I’m not 100% convinced. It’s a complicated landscape. A sizeable chunk of the male population eschew all fiction. For them, a good read is bunking down with the Sunday Times or a Hayes Manual (I’m feeling charitabe here).
And, much as I’d like to get J Boy reading the ten recommendations, I don’t rate my chances.
One of them, Lily’s Big Bay, deals with the heroine’s feelings of profound disappointment and feelings of jealousy when her teacher picks another child to be flower girl at his wedding. Another, Stephanie’s Ponytail is about being who you are and what happens when you don’t bother thinking for yourself.
But a story that revolves around a girl and her hairstyles?
Sorry, I just don’t think my grubby football-mad little boy is going to buy it.