Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Boys and the Library

During my morning blog reading session, I came across a post from Ask the ALA Librarian on boys and reading.  This prompted a moment of thoughtfulness on the subject.

A common misconception is that boys just don't like to read.  In my opinion, boys are not encouraged to read quite as much as girls are.  Boys are generally expected to run around outdoors like little heathens and be loud and boisterous, while expectations for girls tend to involve quieter activities, like reading.  It's usually the little boys that are shushed at the library; hardly ever the little girls. (This thought process is related to yet another blog post found here).

This all falls under that large debate of nature versus nurture.  Are boys louder because they are boys or because they are raised to be loud?  (Of course loud here is meant to encompass "typical" boy behaviors).  My brother and I are actually examples of this very thing.  He does like to read, but when we were kids, I'd be the one with the book amusing myself, while he constantly needed to be entertained.  Was there a difference in the way our parents raised us that caused this, or was it just because he's a boy? 

In any case, I was happy to see this article, "Why Aren't Little Boys Reading?"  I was happier, of course, to see that the Toledo-Lucas County Library is actually taking measures to entice boys in particular.  One of my favorite ideas is to create programming targeted to boys, including programs with gross or creepy crawly in the title.  Another great idea are displays targeted to boys—testosterone fueled reads, perhaps? : ) 

This article really brings to light some problems I myself have felt in the library.  An archived Booklist webinar, Sensational Summer Reading, also touches on these issues.  Research on the whether summer reading programs benefit students shows that boys tend to participate less; my guess would be this is because generally programs don’t appeal to boys.  When I worked at a small branch we had a tough time getting the kids away from computers to get them to participate in other programming.  Unfortunately, where I work now, there’s no place for tweens or teens, which makes it much harder to get kids interested in anything we do.

In instances like these, I feel the need for a little CYA, so here goes.  Currently, boys slip through the cracks in terms of library interest and usage.  We can do things to encourage and pique their interest, but the goal is to do so while preventing the slippage of girls because we focus time on boys.  As with anything involving any two groups of people, it’s a delicate balance to increase the interest and participation of one group while maintaining or continuing to interest the other group.

Further reading: (These were listed on the ALA Librarian post.  I didn't directly use them above, but created a little list for myself with  what I found.  They are quite useful.)
ALA Wiki on Boys and Reading
YALSA Booklists: Quick Picks and Graphic Novels

Resources (all mentioned above):
Ask the ALA Librarian - Motivation for post
Awful Library Books
Why aren't little boys reading?

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