Books Boys Love to Read
Girls read; boys don’t. Except that boys can read and boys do read…when they have books that are appealing.
Enter author Phil Rink and his Jimi and Isaac series written especially for middle school boys.
Like parents and educators around the globe, Rink is keenly aware of a troubling epiphany that traditional publishers may have spent the last two decades shortchanging today’s boys in a well-meaning but ill-fated effort to right an old wrong for today’s girls.
Rink says, “There’s no shortage of research on the reality that boys and girls read in different ways, for different reasons, with different skill levels at different ages. But therein lies the rub. A multitude of changes in K-12 literature since the 1990s have surely played a devastating part in why many of today’s boys simply don’t like books. Gone are the inspiring boy heroes, the do-it-yourself boy thinkers, the boy inventors, the boy friendships, and the boy amazing adventures. If I were a boy, I wouldn’t read either.”
Rink is determined to stop the literary exodus of male readers by writing and publishing one page-turning book at a time.
“Instead of giving up on boys who don’t read, I decided to write stories that directly appeal to boy readers on every level.” Rink explains.
This is how he does it. Rink, a professional inventor with a degree in engineering, creates his books the same way he approaches all his successful creations—by focusing on sound structure, choosing quality ingredients, and paying careful attention to the real needs of individuals who will use what he’s making.
“With the Jimi and Isaac series, I started with funny and strong male characters who are active and noisy and smart and silly—you know, real boys. I placed these kids in real-world settings like school and home and soccer practice—the real world of middle schoolers. Then, I gave them fun things to do and real problems to solve—like suddenly dealing with a new coach who wants a team to win at any cost.” Rink says. “Readers are right there with Jimi and Isaac as they feel inspired and hopeful and irritated and amused.”
But Rink’s work offers more than great characters and realistic dialogue. He has paid attention to engineering high-level plots that easily unfold with struggle-free vocabulary and grammar.
“Boys need stories that grab their imagination. They need lead characters that reflect their own dispositions. They need all that engaging story stuff comfortably described with words that are in their reading development space. So, I did that. My books are all short. They are full of simple sentences and complex ideas. The protagonist is the antagonist, and all the important conflict is internal. It’s not what happens to the 10-to-12-year-old boy that matters, it’s how he reacts that’s important. His friends and enemies and teachers and parents all help him when they’re hurtful and they get in his way when they try to be kind. Success comes when the boy learns to think for himself and adapt advice and circumstance to fit his own plans.”
Rink wants his readers to say ‘the main character in the book is a kid just like me and there was another kid in the book that is just like my friend and they did something that was just like what me and my friends do except it was just a little bit different and it turned out great and now there’s this thing that I’ll try doing again because I think I know just what I need to do differently this time and maybe it will work.’
“My books help boys think things through.” Rink explains. “The boys I write for are planning when they stare off into space, not dreaming. My reader is the boy who thinks about the how-to. My reader is the kind of kid who will say to himself: ‘I’ll put my shoulder into that guy and kick the ball with the outside top of my left foot and then my shot will curve into the corner of the goal.’ My readers are the guys who have spent their lives dropping pebbles into puddles to make ripples. They want to throw boulders into oceans, making waves that reach around the world.”
Rink know his readers. And, his Jimi and Isaac books are written for boys without short-changing the reader who might be a girl. Rink agrees.“It’s true. My books are for boys and about boys, but girls like my books, too. That makes me happy because my books are specifically designed to offer a safe place for self-discovery. All kids—boys and girls—need a stable place to stand while they write the stories of their own lives. That’s what I’ve created.”
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