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Maria Salvadore

Reading Rockets’ children's literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids’ books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.

What do boys read?

April 16, 2009

I read a recent article in the New York Times that surprised me a bit. A team of researchers, anthropologists no less, went searching for what 6 to 14 year old boys might find most appealing to watch.

Interesting to note that boys and their interests are the focus of a study sponsored by Disney, a leader in the production of programs that spawned a princess frenzy that reaches girls of all ages — literally into adulthood.

Why now? Why boys? To tap another market? Or because a market is being lost? Or just too much pink?

There's been a lot of attention paid to what boys read, promoted by many including Jon Scieszka with his Guys Read website. The mission is of course to get boys reading and to expand the notion of what reading is.

The graphic format — someone suggested the term "visual literature" — seems likely to expand the notion. And there is a new imprint to do just that.

TOON Books was started by comic book giant, Art Spiegelman and his wife, Francoise Mouly (the noted art editor for The New Yorker) to combine the pacing and format (plus the appeal) of comic books with the controlled vocabulary of Dr. Seuss.

There are superheroes like Mo and Jo: Fighting Together Forever, siblings whose rivalry stops long enough for them to unite to overcome villains. There's Jack and the Box, a rabbit who finds an unusual surprise in the toy. And while there's a princess in Benny and Penny: Just Pretend, she's Benny's pesky little sister who interferes with his make-believe pirating (all TOON).

Maybe we don't need Disney researchers, just adults who are willing to stretch their ideas of what boys respond to and why they may not respond like girls. Emmbedded in that should be how adults regard what reading is and what books should look like, along with a close-up understanding of what boys might read, and by extension watch on screens — it just may be more diverse than what we adults realize.


Hear! hear! I think it's incumbent on us as adults to take the time to really get to know a child and encourage him to seek out reading material in the form and subject area he wants.

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"Reading is not optional." —

Walter Dean Myers