Librarians/Teachers/Parents – what do you think of Eton Head’s comments on reading, teens and boys?

In The Times of 13th June 2015, there is an article in the paper (and then a larger piece in the accompanying magazine) discussing the views of the Headmaster at Eton, Tony Little, on education and reading. The piece is based on his forthcoming book, An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Education. I found the article interesting and found myself agreeing with a number of the points he made.

A number of topics are discussed but my interest lies in some of his comments about teenagers and reading. He is quoted as saying:

“I have seen the effect that an adult or friend can have on boys by reading a section of text aloud to them. They become interested enough or read on, either by themselves or sharing the reading with others.”

I think this is such an important point – teens (or anyone for that matter) are often persuaded to see a film or buy a game because they have seen a preview, an excerpt, an advert or heard a friend talk about it. Publicity for books does not work in the same way but parents, friends, teachers or librarians have an ideal opportunity to provide the book equivalent of a preview by reading excerpts of a book to potential readers (hopefully finishing their reading on a cliff hanger so as to hook the listener). There are a couple of books that provide an easy way to do this. In February this year Malorie Blackman was behind the publication of a book clued Love Hurts which contained extracts from a number of teen books about love – all sorts of love. Books like this are an ideal way to give potential readers a taste of what a book contains and hopefully encourage them to pick up the book from which the extract is takenand read it from cover to cover.


There are other books in this style – A Little Aloud for Children by Michael Morpurgo contains extracts from some classics, mixed with poetry and centred around different themes. The book actually tell you how long it takes to read the excerpt aloud. There is another book A Little Aloud by Angela Macmillan which is aimed at adult readers.

Another quotation from the article: “Books are written to be read as a whole and it is important where possible to enable boys to read books as a complete text.”

This is so true – and yet some readers struggle with books that are long or have convoluted stories. In these cases short stories are ideal or else books written in short chapters. These are two of my favourites but some other suggestions can be found here:

Let it Snow by John Green et al

Mortal Chaos Series by Matt Dickinson

snow  mortal2 mortal1mortal3

The article says that Tony Little also recommends that boys “should be encouraged to read in any form: magazines, websites, eBooks, newspapers,c omits and even puzzle book.”

Whilst it is not always easy to find magazines aimed at the YA market, there are plenty that are appropriate for this age group and which are targeted towards specific interests in sport or science or history. Books, Teens and Magazines has a page dedicated to these magazines here.

The article goes on to list books which Tony Little feels every bright 16 year old should read, split by genre. The list is extensive and contains many classics with a few more modern titles – Atonement by Ian McEwan, Never Let Me Go by Kazio Ishiguro and The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe. What the literature section does not contain are any YA specific books. Whilst the list is extensive, it is not exhaustive: there are many adult books that are excellent for teen readers and there are many YA books that are excellent too. Check out Adult Books for Teens here as well as book lists by age etc here – and as with any book list, be guided by the list but not constrained by it.

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