Helping Boys Develop a Lifelong Love of Reading
An interview with John Martin, founder of Boys Read
On Performance: Why did you start Boys Read?
John, BoysRead.org: My primary inspiration for founding Boys Read was fueled by my frustration that so many great books and writers that appeal to boys are often overlooked. My secondary inspiration was based on my frustration of hearing people say that their boy doesn't like to read. I believe that the only reason that a boy doesn't like to read is because he has yet to be exposed to an author's voice that he completely identifies with as his own voice.
On Performance: What do you see as the unique needs of boys when it comes to developing a lifelong love of reading?
John, BoysRead.org: Boys need to be exposed to a lot of choices when it comes to fiction and non-fiction. Again, as stated before, most boys have yet to be exposed to an author's voice that completely, one hundred percent resonates with them. This includes fictional voices as well as high-interest, non-fiction subject matter. Boys need to be served up a huge buffet of books, not just a few titles that happen to be hot in the book world.
Boys also need to see family members reading at home, especially males. Like boys, I find there are a ton of men who have never found an author's voice that they identify with either. I love to see men reading Middle Grade and YA novels. I think there are many books and authors on the Boys Read website that men and boys would love to read, if they were only exposed to more choices.
On Performance: What approaches have you found successful in encouraging boys to read?
John, BoysRead.org: Men, women, or slightly older kids reading books passionately to boys. The passion can't be faked. When boys see that we have a passion for a book or author, they want to know and hear more.
On Performance: What have you learned from educators as you've pursued this work?
John, BoysRead.org: That they too care deeply about helping reluctant male readers but don't have the time, bandwidth, and resources to make meaningful progress in addressing the gender reading gap between boys and girls.
On Performance: What do you want educators to know as they think about how to encourage boys to read?
John, BoysRead.org: It takes monumental effort to create and sustain change in boys reading habits. We can't expect it to happen in the home. We have to carve out time for each and every boy and make sure they are accounted for during school. This is tough in today's educational environment. Educators can't help boys on their own. A huge volunteer effort is needed. We need men, women, and older kids to volunteer to work with boys on their reading during school hours. We need corporations to step up to the plate and assist in finding unique ways to motivate boys to read, for example, by providing incentives for boys who reach a desired reading goal.
On Performance: John, thank you for your efforts to promote reading among boys, and for sharing with us today.
John Martin is the founder of Boys Read. He writes middle-grade and YA novels, and works with schools to motivate reluctant readers. Boys Read's mission is to transform boys into lifelong readers. John's award-winning website, boysread.org, features many extraordinary authors that boys love. The website is used as a resource by parents, librarians, and teachers. John believes there's a book and author out there for every boy.
John has a BA in Speech Communications and an MA in Organizational Communications. He lives in Seattle with his wife, ten-year-old daughter, calico cat, and a hermit crab.