Books Needed For The ‘It’s Too Haaaaaaaard!’ Generation

Teachers want to ditch classic novels in favour of shorter books because they reckon boys do not have the stamina to read more than 100 pages.

So they want books of less than 100 pages? Are we back to ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ again?

Boys are so used to computer games and watching TV their attention spans have shrunk and they are ‘intimidated’ by long books, a study has found.

They’re going to be totally flummoxed by most company’s H&S policies and employment contracts then. Should they actually get a job…

Teachers believe the classics they are expected to teach, by authors such as Jane Austen, can put boys off reading for life.

Do they have any alternative suggestions? If so, they don’t say. Oddly, most ‘Harry Potter’ books are quite long, and they seem to have no problems with those. Maybe Jane Austen isn’t the sort of thing they want to read?

But why would this become an issue now?

The findings come as Education Secretary Michael Gove prepares to include more classical literature in the curriculum.

Ah! Now it’s all clear. This is less a valid concern, more a bit of political manoeuvring…

Bestselling children’s author Frank Cottrell Boyce said that in today’s world boys are intimidated by long books.He said: ‘They must be started on shorter books. Nobody wants to run a marathon if they can’t run.’

Nobody would want to run a marathon at all if they were told ‘Well, that’s far too long for you – just run half the 100 metres course, if you feel like it’…

Mr Cottrell Boyce added the problem was less pronounced with girls.‘Boys are not as good as girls at sitting and listening,’ he said.

Errr, OK. If you say so….

As Leg-Iron points out, this might have disastrous consequences, just like all progressive policies. So what long books did you enjoy in school, and what would you recommend to get boys reading?

22 comments for “Books Needed For The ‘It’s Too Haaaaaaaard!’ Generation

  1. May 25, 2011 at 6:10 am

    Read with them. It works.

  2. May 25, 2011 at 7:01 am

    I agree with sackerson. I didn’t tackle the classics until well after I’d left school. As a child I was enrolled in two libraries and encouraged to read whatever I wanted to read. I think it worked.

  3. Robert Ewards
    May 25, 2011 at 8:10 am

    I see that Mr. Boyce’s laterst offering is 240 pp! It’s called ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang flies again…” Derivative, or what?

    I’m sure he’ll try ‘The Bungle Jook’ quite soon. Rentaquote crap.

    The way round this steaming and crucial issue is to ensure that the teachers themselves are familiar with decent literature. I had a carryon with an English teacher who told me that she was ‘pulled up’ for introducing her dear little charges to the basics of Byron, Donne and Defoe. ‘Too elitist…’

    Splendidly, she responded that if the Headmaster wished, she would draft a few chapters of War & Peace in Text speak, Sarf London spadespeak or even Pidgin English if he thought it a good idea, so, the opening of ‘A Tale Of Two Cities’ might read: “GD BD MN, INNIT…” The comma or spacing being, of course, optional, in order to let the little dears have some self-expression.

    I relish the debate, and so, I’m sure, does Mr. Gove; a golden opportunity to expose the present teaching profession (or rather, its unions) for what it is: odious, ignorant, slovenly,politicised and lazy

    • May 26, 2011 at 8:14 am

      The way round this steaming and crucial issue is to ensure that the teachers themselves are familiar with decent literature. I had a carryon with an English teacher who told me that she was ‘pulled up’ for introducing her dear little charges to the basics of Byron, Donne and Defoe. ‘Too elitist…’


    • May 27, 2011 at 5:59 am

      ‘Too elitist’;? Well, that just says it all! 🙄

  4. May 25, 2011 at 8:26 am

    I remember having To read Austin for Emglish Lit in the 60s along with Henry IV. At an all boys school! I’ve enjoyed Shakespear ever since and have never stopped being rude about carriages to Bath. Flunked the exam, Austin is not for boys. Why did the staff choose it instead of the Cruel Sea?

    Having raised 4 kids I am sure boys and girls need to be educated differently and that does include the choice of books. Austin is all relationships which is never going to go down well with spotty boys.

  5. May 25, 2011 at 8:48 am

    Some years ago, I noticed a young couple browsing the babies’ toy section of a local shop. The man picked up an activity centre – all shiny buttons and things to twist and slide;
    “Don’t be stupid!” exclaimed his partner, “Them things are for boys; you can’t give that to a girl.”

    Sadly I suspect her attitude is not uncommon – and that a converse is constantly at work; just observe parents out with their pre-school children and compare how often mothers produce books as a distraction for boys or girls.

    By the time they reach school, a large number of boys have absorbed the idea that fiction is for girls – an idea compounded by picture books designed to appeal to the women who do almost all the purchasing.

    The rot has set in long before boys are of an age to read a full-length book and it’s based in deep-rooted social attitudes, part of the same pattern that leads girls to define themselves in terms of appearance at the expense of intellectual ability.

    Oh, and Boyce is hardly what I’d call a cultural arbiter; four childrens books, however many prizes they may win, don’t redeem a career that started on Coronation Street and included sole credit for a series of Brookside.

    Sorry – I feel much better now!

    • May 27, 2011 at 6:01 am

      “Oh, and Boyce is hardly what I’d call a cultural arbiter…”

      Me neither. But he is, sadly, what (these days) we call a children’s author.

  6. Maaarrghk!
    May 25, 2011 at 10:27 am

    I seem to recall that Animal Farm (the book not the video)comes in at 98 pages and that 1984 is not a great deal over 100 pages.

    The Heart of Darkness is another one I remember being able to read in an evening.

    • Scan
      May 25, 2011 at 4:58 pm

      You’re right with Animal Farm; an excellent book of excellent length for Mr. Cottrell-Boyce (a name so long I almost got bored with it!), although I would have though he and the union teachers would say it was just capitalist propaganda or deny that book exists at all!

      As for 1984 I think it’s over 300 pages (a friend recently asked to borrow it) however, it is that depressing it’d mean they’d all be on double-doses of Ritalin. 😆

  7. DSD
    May 25, 2011 at 10:35 am

    I read Lord of the Rings at seven, the Iliad and the Odyssey at eight. Today’s members of the teaching profession would no doubt conclude that my postman father was a dangerous middle-class elitist for encouraging me towards anything ‘classic’.


    • May 27, 2011 at 6:02 am

      Spot on!

  8. Scan
    May 25, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    I think the statement about the length of books is absolute rubbish – it’s a cheap excuse. It’s probably got more to do with some teachers wanting an easy route to ticking boxes and making it look like they’re progressive, fresh and successful.

    However the part about Jane Austin is correct. For my GCSEs in 1996 I was forced to read both Pride and Prejudice and Romeo and Juliet. To say it was painful and boring is an understatement and it completely put me off reading for the duration of my GCSEs even though I’d always been a huge reader. Luckily I found my passion again in A-Level History (Thankyou Mr. MacLachlan!).

    Fifteen-year-old boys do not want to read about a housemaid constantly sobbing because she can’t iron her doilies properly and she can’t get her boss’s husband to notice her fluttering eyelashes because of the intricasies of the 19th century social system.

    Fifteen-year-old boys want to read about science or science-fiction, clandestine meetings in alleyways, fist-fights, gun fights, car chases, fire breathing whores with big tits and not many clothes…heroes and villains.

    Has there never been a book written that includes at least one of those – and is well written?

    Of course the two problems with that is that you’re going to have to fight against the literary snobs that won’t even contemplate anything that wasn’t written before proper lighting was invented; and even if you do manage to get a male-orientated book (or books) past them, you’re going to have the genetically weak and pale-skinned waving their pamphlets in the air wailing that you’re advocating criminality, dangerous driving and violence against women.

    I’m optimistic though…*cough*

    • May 27, 2011 at 6:03 am

      There are plenty of classics that would interest boys, if the teachers would just be creative – for instance, cashing in on the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ craze to introduce ‘Treasure Island’.

      • Scan
        May 27, 2011 at 9:17 am

        I agree totally, but are they allowed to be creative? It seems that a great many of them aren’t.

  9. John
    May 25, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    I have to say I have some empathy with the quote about Jane Austen books. Pride and Prejudice almost ended my will to live, let alone read it was so utterly vapid and boring.

    The challenge to the proposition that kids won’t read anything more than 100 pages is : “So what happened with Harry Potter then?” The kids want to read if teachers and parents inspire them to do so.

  10. ivan
    May 25, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    I have thought all day about this since both of my children were reading long before they went to school. My daughter had the distinction of having her own public library card at the age of two when the other children under the age of 5 were added to one of the parents cards.

    Both of them worked their way through the books I had as a youngster, like the Biggles books and on to my SF collection.

    My daughter was tested at 5 – because she could read everything the teachers put in front of her – and found to have a reading age of 19. My son, tested at 6 also had a reading age of 19. The age of 19 appeared to be the cut off age.

    Both of them read for pleasure, only getting to ‘the classics’ when they were in their teens with my daughter commenting that most of them were a load of tosh. My son read a couple and then turned to my technical manuals and science books.

    Scan is correct in what he says especially about the literary snobs and their attitude.

    Reading should be for enjoyment at the beginning for all children with parents – both – helping and guiding them, but then how many parents can read at all let alone read to their children. The attitude seems to be ‘plant the kids in front of the telle and get a tinne and crisps for yourself’. This is how far the country has fallen and I wonder if it can ever overcome this and rise again.

  11. stan mann
    May 26, 2011 at 12:47 am

    Althugh I’d already read it,Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” was on my school list at age 16 – not long and fulfils several of Scan’s criteria. There’s lots of good short stuff around anyway – Orwell’s essays leap to mind,especially “Politics and the English Language”.

  12. May 26, 2011 at 8:17 am

    Excellent post, excellent comments. Literary snobs? Well yes but classics should still be on offer. That doesn’t stop a kid reading Dahl, as long as he reads.

  13. May 26, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    If Scan thinks that 15 year old boys want books containing big breasted, unclothed,whores, clandestine meetings, fights, wars, murder etc. with treachery and tribalism thrown in for good measure, they could always try The Old Testament.

    • May 27, 2011 at 6:04 am


    • Scan
      May 27, 2011 at 9:14 am

      It never crossed my mind; what an excellent idea! 😆

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