Last weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the YALSA conference in St. Louis. I’m sure I could ramble on for pages about using e-readers, new library apps, transmedia in books, and pop culture, but I’d like to instead focus on the topic of males reading.
Guys Talkin’ to Guys: What Will Guys Read Next? was my favorite presentation, in part because of the two panels. Four prominent male YA authors were featured (Greg Neri, Torrey Maldonado, Andrew Smith, and Antony John) in addition to four teenage boys from various St. Louis private high schools. They were eloquent, passionate, and showed a sense of humor when offering suggestions on guys reading. Rather than babbling, I’ll list some main points that I’d like to remember for later.
1. Guys read everything. When asked what types of books they enjoyed reading, the teen panel mentioned adventure, biography, mystery, non-fiction, manga, blogs, etc. We can’t pigeonhole boys into a category that only likes certain topics. It’s unfair to assume that boys may not enjoy romance simply because it’s commonly associated with femininity. Take the Hunger Games for example: the stories are fast-paced, laced with adventure and mystery, but also include romance. None of the teenagers suggested that they would avoid a book due to romance.
2. Social sway matters. If we can raise the social status of books, we will engage more readers. Torrey Maldonado is a teacher who has witnessed the influence books can have on groups of friends. If one person is positively impacted by a book and comfortably carries books in public, suddenly it becomes acceptable to enjoy reading.
3. Books need commercials too. When asked how can we encourage boys to read? The teens talked a lot about how they are bombarded with commercials for other media constantly. Each of them supported the idea that with more outreach and a stronger presence, books can grab their attention. One teen grabbed the microphone and gave a ten second book talk in a powerful, stereotypical announcer voice. The gist of it would be, “In a dark world, a boy realizes his true identity as a wizard…coming soon at your local library…for FREE….Harry Potter.” I’d love to turn this into teen programming at a library. I’m envisioning teens recording book commercials that are short, sweet, and attention grabbing. They could post the commercials to YouTube weekly, or to a library blog. Feel free to steal this idea!
Although I cannot find helpful links at this moment, I’m happy to send out book titles by the featured authors if anyone is interested.