Try getting a little boy to sit down and read a book when he would rather be off kicking a football, and you'd be better off wrestling jelly.
Dan Freedman knows all about this. He's the author of the Jamie Johnson series of football novels (published by Scholastic Books), and is passionate about getting boys reading. Dan has worked with many of the UK's top footballers during his time at the Football Association, and now he's turned to writing fiction for children, charting the rise of young football star Jamie Johnson. Gary Lineker has described his book as "An inspiring read for all football fans".
This is Dan's advice on what we need to do to get boys excited about reading:
So how do you get boys to read?
It's a question I'm asked a lot.
Obviously there isn't one simple answer otherwise the question wouldn't still be being asked by schools and parents around the country.
What I'll do is tell you a little bit about how I felt as a boy growing up and my relationship to reading and, from that, we might be able to shed a bit of light on the matter....
FACT 1 - I was, like many/most (delete as applicable) boys, very stubborn.
FACT 2 - Generally speaking I would do the opposite to what I was told to do.
FACT 3 - I was always told to read (but never really given a reason why).
Thus I did not read anything (unless it had to do with football).
So I would say, the first bit of advice would be to avoid this blanket order of 'you must read.'
Instead, why not try asking the boy in question what he's into? Whatever the answer is, that is your potential breakthrough point in terms of reading material.
IE You can continue the conversation by saying: 'Oh, well if you're into that, you should have a look at x book – I've heard it's brilliant.'
Simple? Yes. Effective? Why not see...?
And the key here is not to be snobby. People might easily have been snobby about my love for football but you can access a good vocabulary from any source:
Last season Newcastle was consistently placed precariously near the relegation zone. Their ultimate fate was a horrendous ordeal for their passionate and loyal fans.
The exorbitant fee Real Madrid paid to acquire Ronaldo was good value because of the aura he possesses and brings with him to any club.
The 'keeper scuttled backwards to tip over Rooney's tantalising lob...
Just because these words are used and learned in a football context, doesn't make them any less valuable.
So, for me, the key is to ask and encourage rather than order.
Two quick memories to illustrate my point:
- Once, when I was about 11, my mum came into my room and found me reading a book. I hid it under the pillow as quickly as I could. I was embarrassed and upset because I had been found doing something that she had told me to do and I had therefore vowed not to. It felt as though I had lost a battle!
- I visited a school recently to talk about my Jamie Johnson series of football novels. A boy came up to me and, as proud as anything, told me he didn't read. I simply said: "Oh, really." (You don't hear me preaching).
But then he told me that he had seen my book, The Kick Off in the school library and, because Steven Gerrard had said it was a good book, he had read it.
"What did you think?" I asked.
"Yeah," he said. "It was alright."
Back of the net! I thought to myself...
Golden Goal, the latest book in the Jamie Johnson series by Dan Freedman is available here from Amazon