Boys don't like to read. Why is that? How can we reach them? How can we make them want to read?
So many questions. So few answers. Children's author Jonathan Emmett has taken on these mysteries of the universe and come up with an intriguing theory.
He says there are too many women in publishing, and they are skewing the product to favor their own sex.
Hence, men are not readers.
In essence, all the problems of the publishing industry can be laid at the feet of the women who dominate the industry.
An author must first approach a literary agent to gain a representative who will open the gate to the publishing house. The literary agent has to fall in love with the book to take it on, but the majority of literary agents are women. They don't see the world through a boy's eyes. They don't like what boys like, and so, the agents fall in love with books that are aimed at girls like them.
From the start, boys are pushed aside because there simply are not enough men acting as gatekeepers. And it gets no better as a manuscript heads up the ladder towards publication. Women dominate the editorial positions, and it is women making most of the decisions as to which books will make it and which will be rejected.
What's a boy to do?
He goes and plays video games where his interests in action are met. He engages in make-believe in a totally non-feminine sphere, awash in violence and physicality.
When it comes to purchasing books, it's the women again who thumb through the offerings and select things that they find suitable for their children or grandchildren. None of that silly swashbuckling or gunplay or attacks from space aliens. What boys want, they do not get, and so they do not bother to read.
Boys are, in a way, trained to not like reading because their early experiences teach them that books are for girls. The boys grow up to be men and they don't seek out books because they never learned to like reading. As children, the content was not intriguing. They don't expect to find anything different as they mature.
Mr. Emmett is blaming all those women for the current crisis in education, where boys are left behind because their reading skills are weak. The weakness is not some genetic mutation or faulty gene on the Y chromosome, but the actions of an industry that does not have enough of a male influence.
Women control access to publication, and women control what gets published. After that, it's women controlling who wins the book awards that boost marketing. Everywhere he looks, it's women, and they can't see beyond their own preferences to imagine what an active boy would relate to in a work of fiction or a picture book.
He believes that more men need to be involved in manuscript acquisition, to balance the over-feminization of children's books. Men who were once boys have a better idea of what boys like, and would boost young male readership by giving the customer what he wants in reading material. More men are needed, especially in children's publishing, to provide content that the target audience will actually read.
Build it and they will come, someone once said about a sports field. Print it and they will read. When they read, they will learn, and the skills gap will shrink. But only if the ladies step aside and let a man take charge.