(Disclaimer: I do realise that much of this applies to girls. I was one once. I was also a tomboy and read “boy” books. I started my working life as a computer scientist. Even now I prefer spy thrillers over chick lit. I don’t mean in any way to infer that these are exclusively boy traits or exclusively boy books. But there are biological differences between boys and girls, and here I’m focusing on boys.)
Ah little boys. They love to move, they love to play, they love to laugh, they love to pretend, they love to fart on cue. They dual, spar, build, break, leap, run, wipe snot on their sleeves and when they come home from school or preschool they want nothing more than a big hug from their mum. And food. Lots of food. They have the emotional capacity of an entire planet and the emotional expressiveness of a sullen dog.
Boys are dirty. Dare I mention the dirt? The never-ending dirt? Muddy feet, sand in their shoes, rocks in their pockets, paint on their clothes, food on their faces, glue in their hair. I once took my younger son to a paediatric dentist and when he got off the dentist’s chair, it was covered in sand and tan bark, spilled out from who-knows-where. The dentist just shrugged. He knew.
Also, little boys love guns. When my older son was two, his TV use was restricted to a few choice movies and the younger kids’ channel in small doses. Still, he fashioned a gun-like object with craft supplies and called it his ‘shooter’. Ban them all you like but boys will make guns from whatever is at hand: sticks, clay, pieces of toast, their penises…
It’s a fun age, if you embrace the messy-noisy-craziness of it all. It’s also an age of huge developmental growth – physical, emotional and mental. They have thrown off babyhood and start to take tiny steps towards independence. The world is opening up to them and it’s exciting.
When it comes to books for this age group, we really need to be mindful. This is an age in which they are expected to sit still and learn to read, when sitting still is against their every instinct. It is an age when they are no longer interested in younger picture books, but not yet ready for the more complicated themes in older books that have the kind of excitement they crave. This is an age where boys are either made readers or lost. It’s vitally important to keep sharing books with these boys. And the books need to draw them in and keep them wanting more.
“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” – Emilie Buchwald
So, what do boys like to read about? Of course, every boy is different, but there are some fairly standard themes that most boys like. The story needs to be fairly fast-paced but as it’s important for boys to learn emotional intelligence, it’s also important to have characters they can relate to and empathise with. Suggested themes are:
- Superheroes – Duh! you might think, but this is quite important. Playing and reading about superheroes is a very valid and important part of childhood. It helps them to get to know their own strengths and weakness, to find a place in the world, and to boost their self-esteem through make believe. Because much of the Hollywood-type superhero stuff is actually rated for a much higher age range, and that market is saturated, there isn’t much that is gentler and more accessible for younger boys.
- Humour – Throw in a fart joke and you have a winner. Some boys like the really silly stuff, some boys don’t. But humour is universal. Humour includes potty humour, people/animals doing the unexpected, plays on words, tongue twisters and mash ups (humans with animal features, etc.)
- Gadgets – Give your character a Super Plutonic Booster Jet 3000 with the optional Spy Scope and you will have little boy hearts racing.
- Enemies – Whether they’re mythical beasts, mad scientists, evil wizards or fiery dragons. Just don’t make them too evil, or scary. And good ALWAYS wins over evil.
- Fantasy and Sci Fi – Flying carpets, worlds within our world, time travel, outer space, robots, talking stuffed toys, pirates, treasure, aliens.
- Our cool world – volcanos, rocks, deep sea, caves – get it?
Following are just some of the books that have been a hit in our household for this age group. One thing I’ve noticed that’s quite important is book series. Boys love to read about their beloved characters again and again (and again and again… even if the plot doesn’t vary much) so good series rate highly.
- Anything by Dr. Seuss.
- The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child by Julia Donaldson
- The Detective Dog (by Julia Donaldson)
- Pig the Pug (by Aaron Blabey)
- The Very Cranky Bear (by Nick Bland)
- The First Hippo on the Moon (by David Walliams)
- Did you take the B from my _ook? (by Beck and Matt Stanton)
- Clarrie’s Pig Day Out (by Jen Storer)
- Commotion in the Ocean (by Giles Andreae)
- Diary of a Wombat (by Jackie French)
- The Cow Tripped Over the Moon (by Tony Wilson and Laura Wood)
- Mr. Magnolia (by Quentin Blake)
- Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site (by Sherri Duskey Rinker & Tom Lichtenheld)
- Aliens Love Underpants (by Claire Freedman)
- Zac Power series (by H. I. Larry)
- Boy vs. Beast series (by Mac Park)
- The Magic Treehouse series (by Mary Osborne Pope)
- The Magic Faraway Tree series (by Enid Blyton)
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and other Roald Dahl stories
- The 13 Storey Treehouse series (by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton)
- You Choose series (by George Ivanoff)
- Tashi series (by Anna Fienberg and Kim Gamble)
- Geronimo Stilton series
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (by C. S. Lewis)
I would love to hear similar book recommendations and plan on including some book reviews of my own in this very blog so stay tuned!
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