Teenage boys most of all.
Or at least, that’s what our American culture has been saying for a while now. Unfortunately, it’s becoming more and more true. One question then arises: are boys not reading because they don’t like it, or because all the books are written for girls?
Consider the major young adult novel success stories of the past two decades. Aside from the outlier of Harry Potter, virtually every one of them feature a female protagonist (and are mostly written by female authors). Think about The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars, and so on.
Does this mean boys will never read a story about a girl? No, of course not. BUT… they are much less likely to do so. This has been clearly established in numerous polls. Girls are much more willing to read a story with a boy as the main character than boys are willing to read a story with a girl as the main character. These are just facts, whether good or bad.
There are plenty of older books written for boys, but they don’t see those unless their parents seek them out, for the most part.
We can’t fully blame publishers for this phenomenon. After all, they’re trying to make money, and right now, the money is in female readers.
By doing so, they create a vicious circle: boys don’t read, so we won’t publish books for boys, but then boys can’t find books they like, so they don’t read.
But there’s another reason. A big one.
I’ve worked with teenage boys for over twenty years now. Every year, I ask new ones about whether they like to read. Most say no. And when I probe a little further, one big reason pops up.
School. “I hate reading, because school makes me read stupid stuff.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a variation of that statement.
Again, we can’t fully blame schools. If boys are taught to read things they like before the schools step in, maybe the problem wouldn’t be so bad. But they’re not.
What can be done? As far as I can tell, it’s going to have to start with parents, and it needs to start when they’re young. Get them exciting books. Books with action and adventure. Books that take them into new worlds and new places.
For those who haven’t been taught, it’s also not too late. It’s almost never too late to awaken a love of reading. I’ve heard stories of boys who hated reading until a teacher or someone handed them a copy of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, or something like that. The right books can still work wonders.
This is why I’m writing the Dragontek Lore series. It’s aimed straight at young teenage boys. It’s fast-paced, full of crazy action and adventure (and dragons). Will this help some guys start to read? I can only hope.