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A new way to get boys to read?

October 13, 2008

In America, we have a great reading gender gap. Ideas I’ve heard for getting more young boys excited about reading include boys only book clubs, teaching/giving them books with male central characters and “boy” books like Hatchet or Maniac Magee, and using comic books and graphic novels to introduce them to other books. But until this article in the Sydney Morning Herald about boys’ schools, I’ve never heard this idea: 

“Start in the middle of the story and then work from the beginning”

“Visiting US education expert Dr Leonard Sax”, in advocating boys’ schools as a way to dispel sexism, 

also said books that were considered to be more suited to girls, such as Jane Eyre, could be taught in a way that engaged boys.

“Start in the middle of the story and then work from the beginning,” he said. Doing that created a sense of mystery and engaged readers and made them want to read on to find out more.

“Homer knew about it, Hollywood scriptwriters know about it,” he said. “If you want to engage boys in any great book you start in the middle.”

What a strange suggestion! I wonder if anyone has tried this, with a single boy or with a group, and if it worked. And if it does work, what does that say about boys and reading? How would you go about teaching Jane Eyre from the middle? Jane Eyre is already mysterious, but what about other traditionally “girl” books, like Pride and Prejudice? Would starting from the middle really engage readers? Would the story make sense? If the reading experience is altered, would the take-away drastically change? Are our teaching methods so ineffective that we have to resort to this odd method? Or is the method an innovative, creative solution to a serious issue?

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