Sunday, August 22, 2010


As I tried to name this blog, I was reminded of the Blog Clog. The logical, desirable names were all taken. (Story of my life, but that's another blog.) It came down to dlfkrtnspaoi24 or BoyzRead. While "dlfkrtnspaoi" has a nice ring to it, I was a bit put off by having to share the moniker with twenty-three others. (I draw the line at nineteen.)

This is a blog intended to promote boys' reading. There are others out there, but I hardly think the topic is overdone. Many guys out there still find reading as much fun as flossing. I should know. From sixth grade until I hit thirty, I was one of them.

Some of the items featured will be the high quality reads that everyone can identify by the embossed sticker on the cover. But only some. When I was a kid, I viewed that sticker as reading repellent in the same way a mosquito regards a tasty looking calf muscle that's been slimed by a liberal spray from the OFF! can. Ruins the feast. (As an aside, do calves have calf muscles? Since all their other muscles are calf muscles in that they are the muscles of the calf, is the anatomically correct calf muscle, then known as the calf-calf muscle? I won't even get into what happens when the calf dons a muumuu. Gary Larson, get out of my head! Excuse my while I take my Tylenol.)

I knew that award winning books made librarians all warm and fuzzy inside. But my school librarian (we had them back then) wore a butterfly brooch and walked around with her index finger glued to her lips. I couldn't see how my interests would in any way match someone who had such a need for tranquility. "If you're all really quiet, you can hear the robin singing outside," she'd say. It was December and snow was falling. That's when Mrs. Gordon lost all credibility.)

As I matured, I realized that sometimes stickers were a good thing. (Loved the scratch 'n' sniff era. Aah, root beer. Ketchup. Skunk!) But an enticing title, a cool cover design and, most of all, a thumbs-up from a best friend will get a guy to read more than any shiny (even smelly) sticker. It's the content that needs to be highlighted—quirky characters; a snort-inducing passage; a compelling plot; a fascinating info topic; an accessible, perhaps original, navigation system for nonfiction.

Boys' reading interests are broad. What I love or even what one's best friend loves might be as repugnant as The Bobbsey Twins to you or a boy you know. I'm just one guy trying to get other guys to identify their inner reader. I'll state my biases upfront. I'm not an action adventure reader. (After awhile, I just want the bad guys to kill the protagonist so we can all for a bike ride.) Wizards are fine once in a while. Dragons? Meh. Sci fi? I'd rather read about Bert and Nan, Flossie and Freddie.

Humor works for me. I prefer something slightly higher brow than farts and dog poo, but I can see how the base stuff makes some guys blow snot out their noses. A good thing as long as I am beyond projectile distance. More than anything, I enjoy books that portray guys who think and feel, rather than just act. (I think the importance of "show, don't tell" has been overstated.) I grew up with male characters that solved mysteries, trained and became the local team's sports hero or took the form of a sports car driving mouse or an ice cream loving monkey. At times, they were good reads. But I wanted to know that boys could be more than crime solvers, jocks and lovably anthropomorphic creatures.

That should give you insight as to my own bent. I will, however, stray from my comfortable path on a whim. At some point, I'll still feature that monkey and his ice cream parlor escapade, but I hope to celebrate more evolved characters and plots, too. (Perhaps a monkey that saves an ice cream business is indeed highly evolved.)

In this blog, I'll showcase books, websites and other reading sources that may be of particular interest to some boys. I'll also post entries about getting boys to read and I encourage blog visitors—and regulars (fingers crossed)—to engage in a discussion by leaving comments. Let me know if my word is gospel or if you think I should be thrown on a pyre with every Captain Underpants book ever printed.

By the way, the name of the blog didn't come just by default since all the good ones were taken. (Again, that's another blog.) I'm the kind of stickler who finds salvation (and great humor) in repeated readings of Lynne Truss's Eats, Shoots & Leaves. The slangy (sloppy?) reference to Boyz instead of Boys is not an homage to overrated boy band Boyz II Men (although they hit a homer with "Water Runs Dry"); rather, it's a reminder that, when we consider ways to get boys hooked on reading, we have to shake off standard conventions. Like it or not, people talk at regular volume in the library, comics can be way cooler than Charlotte's Web (blasphemy?) and there is a place on the shelf for a dog with flatulence.

We may disagree on the content, but let's agree to read. And to get boys—yes, and girls—reading!

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