...that just may get us thinking of different ways to encourage young lads into book stores
There are as many reasons people love books as there are people on the planet. We are all very different. A simple walk in the woods or along the aisles of a book store will tell you just how true that is. Yet, there’s something that some people find oddly frightening about books. Some people don’t read them simply because they feel, well, slightly intimidated.
Intimidated? Have you seen the beginning episodes of ‘The Big Bang Theory’ – when the character of Penny begins to apply her mind to books? She feels intimidated.
But, I’d like to explore the idea of how young adults read books. Specifically, young lads. It’s a common enough scenario reported in the school league tables that boys seem to lag behind girls. The lads I know, don’t read them as often as girls do. I’m aware of this little fact because I have worked for young adults most of my life. Lads, in particular. Thousands of them.
It’s almost a cliché to see the young girl sat on her own in the school yard, sucking her thumb or twirling her hair, with a book on her knees (heck, I was that girl at one time!). But we rarely get to see the young man (13 to 21 years of age) doing the same. Why is that? They can’t all be out camping, playing footie or chasing skirt. Therefore, if this is the case, is there anything we can do to rectify it?
I wondered if your indie store had any stats on how many young men (in the aforementioned age bracket), actually visit your store with the intention of browsing and buying for their own pleasure or leisure. Rather than for academic purposes - or for someone else, like mum or dad. In light of this, I've speculated on a few scenarios and posed a few queries. It would be good if you could telWhat are your thoughts/experiences?
Are boys made to feel bad about what they are reading? Whatever the subject or genre they love, parents should be able to identify that they are using their creative imaginations by choosing their own types of books, rather than reading the literature they think they are supposed to read. Some would prefer a Star Wars spin-off! Perhaps we should pay attention to the message the book is giving, rather than the quality of the writing or story-board pictures. Perhaps we should even encourage them to see that all types of book are acceptable and that they are not meant to feel bad about the ones they actually do love.
Do young adults hunger for comical content, rather than something that they need to concentrate on? Any writer worth their salt will tell you how difficult it is to write something funny, but they can rattle off a serious sentence in a few minutes. Think of the authors who have created masterpieces in comics that boys love - lots of them are (or could have been) millionaires.
Having said that, does it really matter who the author is? Do young lads tend to look up the life story of the author? The only content they appear to be interested in is the tale that’s being told. It’s the characters in a book that a young lad loves, and those characters don’t necessarily have to be realistic (Star Wars, again). Is it the story that counts and if it ‘rings’ true, is this what matters to them?
Do they feel they have to buy something that’s suitable for the school syllabus, rather than something on the subject of the ‘Beatles’? Do you, as a store, stock books that have their origins in comics? Or even comics themselves? Have you created a comic corner, specifically for those who love that kind of genre? Think of Roy Lichtenstein. In the 1960s, he made comic strips into masterpieces. Is this the kind of approach that could increase your sales?
Shakespeare is said to have written all those famous plays, but everyone knows he didn't even go to University. Therefore, is there a way to teach young lads that it’s not only ‘geeks in glasses’ that do so? Reading certain books don’t make you more intelligent, but a good book makes you more aware. Remember, it is how you read and interpret a book, not what you read, that’s important.
Do young adults like metaphors in a story? Do they recognise/acknowledge them? I’ve learned that our brains can work on so many different things - all at the same time. If you have your doubts about this, think of the first time you learned to drive. Now, you’re used to it. Once there seemed like a myriad of things to do, and you’re still doing them but on auto pilot! A book can have the same effect on your brain. Metaphors, in particular, are little lessons embedded in the brain without us even being aware of them, yet they teach so much
Are boys made to feel bad for having read or not having read something? Books, by their very nature intend to heal, not hurt. Books that help boys use their imagination – are creative. What was that Stephen King said about books? “Books are portable magic.” Don’t you just love magic?
Are young lads predominantly loners? I’ve found that unless they are in a group (like footballers, rugby players and the like), young lads tend to be loners and don’t make friends as easily as we would like them to. Does being with a book make them feel less lonely? Would a book encourage them to become part of ‘other worlds’ and to connect with people with like-minds?
Do short (words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters) appeal to them more than longer ones? Do they understand that there’s no need to feel intimidated by preferring a quick read?
The young lads I know, figure there’s something ‘strange’ about the world of books. I’m not talking about Kindle, or digital downloading, but of good old fashioned turn-the-page paperbacks. Having said that, I realise that ‘Harry Potter’ sure put a big dent in that area. But I still believe there’s this distance that young lads feel towards books.
Do you think these views are correct or downright untrue? If so, do you think it’s unhealthy? Do you think any of these assumptions are incorrect, or do they have some semblance of sense about them?
I’d like to learn your thoughts on the subject. If you think just bringing these points out into the open might give you some ideas to bring the young adults into your store, please do express your ideas on the subject. Or, if you think these assumptions are just thoroughly wrong, I’d be pleased to hear from you.
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