Each stage of my life can be marked and labeled by a book. My first grade reader was “Fun With Dick And Jane” and that was followed by the entire Dr. Seuss collection. I remember giggling all the way through “Red Fish, Blue Fish”. My first “grown up” book was “Alice In Wonderland” in fifth grade, and to this day I still find delight in wandering through the rabbit hole. This led naturally to Agatha Christie mysteries in middle school, and then the big stuff in high school where I discovered “Jane Eyre”, “To Kill a Mockingbird”, “Anne of Green Gables” and “The Bell Jar”.
When I learned I was going to give birth to Lucy my mind instantly began to map out books. I would introduce my daughter to all of my literary loves from Beatrix Potter to Jane Austen. Indeed, reading to, and with, my daughter has been one of my biggest joys of motherhood.
However, when Max was born I found myself lost. What do boys read? What kind of books do little boys enjoy? What would he like to read now? And what about when he’s in middle school? High school?
I knew for true insight into this problem I would need the assistance of the very man who introduced me to books and reading; my dad. My father was the first one to introduce me to the “classics” and indeed my whole life he has handed me books from the American canon, quietly suggesting I read this one or that one. He was always careful to suggest books that he thought would interest me, being sensitive to the fact that I was a girl. He was the one that brought me “Jane Eyre” and “Vanity Fair” and even “Alice in Wonderland”. Now, as a parent myself I want to do the same for my children. Developing their taste in books by giving them things I know they will enjoy. I called my father and asked sheepishly, “What do boys read?” Well, he quickly rattled off the following list:
1. “Treasure Island” by Robert Louis Stevenson
2. “The Three Musketeers” by Alexandre Dumas
3. “The Man In The Iron Mask” by Alexandre Dumas
4. “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexandre Dumas
5. “The Crystal Cave” by Mary Stewart
6. “Ivanhoe” by Sir Walter Scott
7. “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkein
8. “I, Robot” by Isaac Asimov
9. “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley
10. “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson
The list seemed so obvious and yet I doubt I would have thought of them on my own. Although as a girl I delight in expansive scenery and long romantic dialogue it is common sense that a boy’s interest would trend elsewhere. Indeed each of these books are focused more on actions and deeds, and yet are rich in character and story.
Lucy and I will always have Jane and Elisabeth and Alice. But now, Max and I will have Long John Silver and D’Artagnan and King Arthur. Won’t it be nice that my son and I will have our own special adventures together? Places that only he and I know about? Secret battles, wars and treasure to be found, and that is what turns a boy into a life long reader.
Beth Morley is the writer of Blog O’ Beth, as well as a contributing editor at Blog Nosh Magazine. Beth is a full-time mom, part-time English professor, aspiring chef and secret geek. She loves old books, new technology and good tasting food.