Boys to Men

<p>As an English teacher, I read the recent Children&rsquo;s Laureates&rsquo; <a href="http://www.thebookseller.com/news/83723-childrens-laureates-choose-their... of classic children&rsquo;s books with interest. I was struck by the very clear gender lines that were present in these lists as I am often asked by parents what I can recommend to get their child to read. Nine times out of 10 that child is a boy.<br />
<br />
I was pleased to see <i>Treasure Island</i> on the list; this is a novel I have taught successfully to both boys and girls, with the former loving the swashbuckling Long John Silver and the girls falling in love with Jim Hawkins. This is much easier to achieve in the earlier years of secondary school, when reading and English still have the sparkle of excitement that begins in primary school and when the subject is yet to be deemed &lsquo;uncool&rsquo; by the boys. As all children travel through the secondary system it could be argued that the rigidity of the curriculum at points can become somewhat stifling and boys in particular become disinterested (if I had a pound for every time a teenager told me that they hated poetry, I would be able to retire to a large country mansion . . .).<br />
<br />
So how do we combat this apathy and encourage a love of reading in even the most reluctant readers? Some may say that I am being unfair focusing on the boys, but generally it is boys who find it tougher to find books that appeal to them&mdash;I don&rsquo;t claim any official statistics, just what I see and hear every day.<br />
<br />
My school library has a special display for both boys and girls. The boys&rsquo; display is dominated by non-fiction&mdash;sports heroes such as Amir Khan nestle alongside Top Gear and books about football. The favourite authors of the moment seem to be Darren Shan and Anthony Horowitz; Harry Potter is still a favourite, although with less hold than he used to have. The girls&rsquo; display is a riot of pink, sparkles and horses.<br />
<br />
The Manga Shakespeare series flies off the library shelves, which is pleasing. Anything that is visual and allows pupils to access even difficult language in a way that is easy to understand can never be a bad thing and is infinitely better than my crudely drawn stick version of <i>Richard III</i>!<br />
<br />
Although I can&rsquo;t see most of the boys in my classes picking up copies of <i>Just William</i> in the near future, I hold out hope that in some way over the course of their secondary education all pupils will find something to delight, engage and entertain in their English lessons and if it takes a graphic novel or Wayne Rooney to do so, then so be it.</p>