Sherlock Holmes for Elementary Readers

Daily Mail (London), February 9, 1998 | Go to article overview

Sherlock Holmes for Elementary Readers


Byline: TONY HALPIN

BOYS should be encouraged to read adventure stories and books about 'action man' heroes to boost English standards in schools, say Government education experts.

Traditional 'Boy's Own' favourites, crime novels such as Sherlock Holmes and nonfiction narratives could all help to overcome prejudice against reading among a growing numbers of pupils.

Boys increasingly view reading as 'cissy' and mainly for girls, a two-year study by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority is expected to reveal tomorrow.

This is partly due to a decline in the number of male teachers, who now account for less than one in five of primary school staff.

But boys are also bored by many of the 'politically correct' stories used to teach English in lessons, which appeal more to girls' interests.

The findings could spark a revival of old-fashioned children's authors in schools, such as Enid Blyton. Crime thrillers and Sherlock Holmes mysteries could also be used to spark interest among older boys. The QCA report, Can Do Better, calls for efforts to make English more appealing to boys, who trail far behind girls in reading and writing skills at virtually every level in school.

It said boys are excited by subjects such as space exploration and like nonfiction, particularly about practical activities such as football or motor racing. They also enjoy being able to demonstrate their skills in public speaking and drama. But they are switched off by many classroom books, which tend to concentrate on feelings instead of actions. There is a particular prejudice against poetry both among boys in primary schools and teenagers as old as 14.

Many nine-year-olds think the typical poet is a man who is 'effete, eccentric, not an attractive role model'. Often, they see him as literally having his head in the clouds. …

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