Author and father Malcolm Judge on encouraging his boys to read

Published on: 30 June 2015

Author and father Malcolm Judge shares his strategies for getting his boys to read. Malcolm has written Johnny Jakes Investigates: Hamburgers of Doom which is one of our favourite new books for July!

Jonny Jakes Investigates

I have three boys. Two of them have read my book. The other one is about half way through. And has been for about a year.

It's not that he doesn't like it. When he does have it in his hands he laughs, and has even been known to read bits aloud. But, most of the time, his father's first edition signed copy sits alone (in whatever prominent position I've left it in) and waits for the mood to take him, whilst real life, football and electronic devices get in the way.

Boys and reading. It can be a battle. And, if some of the older teenagers I teach are anything to go by, it's a battle we're losing.

As a parent and a teacher I have two main combat manoeuvres. They are both stunningly unimaginative.

Strategy One: You will read now.

That's it. There is no discussion, no negotiation and absolutely no surrender. Of course, this involves making sure that there are items to read, physically within reach, for the energy and creativity boys can bring to the guerrilla art of not being able to find a book, has to be seen to be believed.

Strategy Two: Put them in a situation where there are no distractions.

My mum is big on boredom. The theory is that if a child is bored enough they will end up doing something interesting. In my family's case, this situation is often our caravan holidays. Last time we went to France my eldest son demolished the first two 'Hunger Games' books after a literary drought of many months. The reason the drought ended?

There was nothing else to do; no wi-fi, no TV, only the sure and certain knowledge that another game of Monopoly would end in bloodshed.

With both of these ideas is a common strand: the absence - or serious reduction - of choice. Of course it is much better if the urge to read can be nurtured in an organic, fluffy way but this only works when the door is already open. We have to face the fact that with a lot of boys we are often pushing at a non-open and often pretty rusty door.

Hopefully, once we've given it a good shove, the door will stay open.