Kid’s books: Where are the pirates?
London - Boys are being put off reading because of the influence women have on children’s literature, says an award-winning children’s author.
Jonathan Emmett warned that children’s books were too girly because of the influence of mostly female panels of editors, publishers, reviewers and judges.
One publishing company’s research suggested women bought 95 percent of picture books for children, he added.
The writer believes boys are being starved of what they enjoy in books, such as swashbuckling pirates, battles, or technical details about space ships and so are driven to more action-packed videogames instead.
“It is a really difficult argument to make because 99 times out of 100 it is women that are under-represented,” said Mr Emmett.
“But there is a literacy gap - boys are underachieving, boys do not like books as much as girls.
“I am arguing that this is because the industry is dominated by female gatekeepers.”
The author and illustrator, a former winner of the Red House Children’s Award for Pigs Might Fly, looked at 450 reviews in five national newspapers.
He found 41 percent of children’s fiction books were by men but more than two-thirds of reviews were by women.
Men were responsible for 47 percent of picture books but more than 80 percent of reviews were by women.
And he found for the past two years, every one of the 13 judges of the prestigious children’s book awards, the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway medals, has been women.
He also drew on personal experience, explaining how only two of the 50 editors he had dealt with were men.
One publishing company told him it carried out research which suggested women bought 95 percent of picture books for children.
“Moms and grans buy books - that’s what’s driving the market,” he told The Times.
“They read the book also and then there’s a tendency for the book to reflect their tastes as well. So there may be a pirate but that pirate will not be engaged in a battle.
“The number of times I have tried to get technical information into a book and it is deemed inappropriate.
“It is one of the things that leads boys and girls with boy-typical tastes, to say ‘I am not really interested in that kind of content, I am more interested in the content of video games’.”
A gap in reading ability is already apparent between boys and girls by the time they are five, according to a parliamentary commission report.
This translates into a year’s difference in reading skills as they go through school. - Daily Mail