I had just discovered the art of leaving my body to sit impassive in a crumpled up attitude in a chair or sofa, while I wandered over the hills and far away in novel company and new scenes... My world began to expand very rapidly,... the reading habit had got me securely.
H. G. Wells
How to get a boy to read, that is the question. What can the humble book offer him, in a world where video games, bicycle tours and games of football are plentiful? The most important is to determine exactly what it is that he likes. The trick is to encourage a boy’s imagination, which is stimulated by the former, whilst also giving him material to expand his horizons. Books like those by Terry Pratchett do a good job of combining the two, as do a number of others.
Once you have ascertained his tastes, give him the encouragement that he needs to read. Find something that will stimulate his imagination and hold his attention. Essentially this is stage is the equivalent of being on top of an absailing wall. He will no doubt enjoy his experience once he’s started and he’ll be sure to come again, but you need him to make that jump. This is where the majority of your support should go, ask him: does he want to climb the peak of a huge mountains, fight dragons, wrestle trolls in the dimly lit forests of myth and magic, feel the power of the elements sweeping through him as he banishes the darkness and save the kingdom? Or perhaps he would rather save the girl, capture the bad guy and foil his evil to block out the sun and plunge the planet into eternal night. Or maybe he just wants to relax, to escape the inner city where he lives and imagine himself sweeping through the rolling hills on one of many bicycle trips with his family.
You’ll need to spend the time to make sure that the first book is something that he wants to read, and something that captures his imagination. I would advise taking a paragraph or two from, say, six books across three different genres and then giving them to him. Go through them with him one by one, so it doesn’t seem daunting. Ask him after he has finished reading: did he like it? if not find out why not and go from there. Style is just as important as genre here, something people tend to overlook. LotR and Eragon for example tread very similar ground but whilst one ambles along, the over zips over it.
Obviously, this is a long process and it may be more attention than you are able to give to an individual child. If that is the case, then don’t worry; it may be all about fostering imagination, but ordered process will help you achieve that on a wider scale. A few hours work would easily produce these 6 extracts on say 3 laminated pages of A4, each with a different genre. You could have, say, Fantasy, Modern (Alex Rider etc) and Situation (Flat Stanley).
The trick is to encourage a boy’s imagination