April 2009 At the London Book Fair, international bestseller James Patterson and director of the National Literacy Trust (NLT), Jonathan Douglas, discussed how to get reluctant boys reading and tackle the gulf between boys’ and girls’ literacy levels.
The debate was chaired by teen fiction author Damian Kelleher and celebrated the James Patterson Extreme Reading Challenge. Run in partnership with the National Literacy Trust’s Reading Champions project, this competition saw hundreds of families across the country reading in extreme and unusual locations for the chance to win a trip to the Space Centre in Sweden.
At yesterday’s debate James Patterson and National Literacy Trust director, Jonathan Douglas, agreed that boys deserve exciting, fast-paced books that will capture their attention. Douglas added that it is very important to challenge stereotypes of reading as ‘uncool’ and insular, and that involving parents in their childrens’ reading is vital, as children cite family members as the people most likely to inspire them to read.
International bestselling author James Patterson knows how difficult it can be to interest boys in books: “My son Jack used to hate reading, but three summers ago my wife and I gave him six books that we thought he’d love. We told him to spend time every day reading. He was reluctant but the next summer, he said ‘sure’. Now we can’t stop him reading; he even insists on the three of us having quiet time, reading our own stuff.”
It was Patterson’s enthusiasm for getting boys hooked on books which sparked his partnership with the NLT’s Reading Champions project which uses the motivational power of male reading role models, both family and school friends, to inspire boys to promote reading. The ‘James Patterson Extreme Reading Challenge’ was launched in February this year and challenged kids to take a photo of themselves reading with their dad in an extreme or unusual location. The Challenge aimed to encourage more children, particularly boys, to pick up books and have fun with them, as well as giving dads and male carers an exciting opportunity to get involved in their child’s reading. Approximately 2000 children and Dads took up the Challenge and were photographed reading in extreme or unusual locations with their dad.
Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust said: “James Patterson is an internationally successful author who has inspired a generation of adults to read. It is incredibly powerful for him to talk about how to get your kids reading. Recent research¹ found that only 23 per cent of boys read stories or novels every day or nearly every day, compared with 41 per cent of girls. Initiatives like the James Patterson Extreme Reading Challenge play a key part in encouraging boys to enjoy reading from an early age. As children who read for pleasure have better life chances than those who don’t, inspiring a love of books has the potential to dramatically improve children’s lives."
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