Sunday, September 11, 2011

Boys reading: Humour and excitement for boys

As we address the challenge of boys not reading, any clue which points us in a direction or validates previous findings is instructive. This anecdote, which took place last week, fits in with Hazel Campbell's last post.

I happen to be talking with an officer of the law, in a perfectly legitimate situation, (he is about in his late twenties to early thirties, I think) and by way of making conversation I say, "I write children's books."
He is politely impressed and says, "At primary?"

I respond, "Yes, you may have used them in school? The Doctor Bird Reading Series. He is not sure, so I expand, "Books like Cat Woman and the Spinning Wheel and Sweet, Sweet Mango Tree." (These are by me and supposedly the favourites of many).

He doesn't remember those titles, but he says, "You mean, like the one with the hot porridge!"

I laugh with delight and say, "Oh that's not by me. That is by Karl Phillpotts, one of the other writers."

I am established as one of 'those writers', consequently a writer of some merit. What is the point of reporting this conversation?

The one with the hot porridge is Why Dog Don't Like Puss, an Anancy story in which Anancy causes Brother Dog to eat hot porridge, which turns Brother Dog against Brother Puss whose porridge was not hot. It's not a story that especially appealed to me. However, I can see where it might appeal to a boy. There is a trickster; somebody gets the worst of it; it's funny; there is a character 'bawling out'; and it ends with Brother Dog chasing Brother Puss . There is mayhem, and the everlasting enmity between dogs and cats has been explained uproariously.

This young man remembered that story after all this time! That is what is so astonishing. This gives us a clue about boys and reading. Anecdotal may not be the same as scientific evidence, but it does validate other findings. So start writing for our boys.

1 comment:

  1. Humour will attract them every time, but note that some of what boys consider humourous can sometimes be quite gross. I have two grandsons.