(with thanks to Matthew Badham for the initial lead): The British government says young boys should be encouraged to read Calvin and Hobbes and comic-book annuals such as the Dandy and Beano to get them into the reading habit young and help them to keep up with girls’ at school.
That’s the message from government adviser Chris Brown, reported in several newspapers including The Times, a retired head teacher and author of Primary Boys into Books, a new reading report commissioned by the Government that’s part of a £5 million government scheme to get more boys reading sooner and trying new books.
Jeff Smith’s Bone: The Great Cow Race, Kazu Kibuishi’s Flight, Michael Carroll’s Sakkara (New Heroes), David Petersen’s Mouse Guard title Fall 1152 and Art Spiegelman’s It Was A Dark and Silly Night are just some of the comic or comic related titles in the extensive reading list, along with Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes collection, Scientific Progress Goes Boink.
The report, part of the “Riveting Reads” series published under the auspices of the School Library Association, includes many comic-style or graphic books in a list of the Top 200 new works he has drawn up for 5 to 11-year-old boys, along with novels about espionage, ghosts and aliens — but not ‘The Famous Five’, ‘Just William’ or even the ever-popular Roald Dahl books.
Brown argues such books had great appeal for many boys and could be of enormous educational benefit because they stimulated visual responses to the pictures as well as intellectual responses to the words, he said. He regretted that schools and parents dismissed them too often as not being “proper books”.
Statistics show that boys are ten percentage points behind girls in English at Key Stage 2. Ministers hope that better reading habits among boys will help close the gender gap. A recent evaluation of Every Child a Reader (ECaR), a programme of intensive literacy support for children who are struggling, shows that it is possible to close the reading gap between young boys and girls.
• The booklist is available exclusively online on the SLA website as a searchable database and also as a downloadable PDF version.
• More on Boys into Books can be found at: http://www.sla.org.uk/boys-into-books-overview.php
• Government research on early reading can be found at: http://www.aft.org/pubsreports/american_educator/spring2003/catastrophe.html