AN INTERVIEW WITH KYLE AND CHRIS BOLTON - BY KYLE THUMAR
Kyle: How has reading helped you throughout your life?
Chris Bolton: Hi, Kyle! First off, thanks for interviewing us. SJ Boys Read! sounds like a great program and we're very excited to contribute. Reading has been a huge part of my life ever since I was very little. I mostly read comic books -- especially Spider-Man -- until the 7th grade, when I discovered my first Stephen King novel. From then on, I continued reading both comics and adult books.
I started off trying to be an artist at a very young age, but soon discovered I didn't have the patience for it. So I turned to writing instead. And if you want to be a writer, the best way to start out is by reading -- as much as you can, all the time, on a variety of subjects.
Now, a few years later (who's counting?), we're publishing our first book, Smash: Trial by Fire, which is inspired by the comics that my younger brother, Kyle, and I grew up reading and loving. So, I guess you could say my life has come full-circle, and the comic books I read as a kid have really paid off in my writing career.
Kyle Bolton: Hello, Kyle! Reading has helped me in expanding my world views. As I’ve gotten older, my sources for getting and sharing information have changed. As have the places I would go to for entertainment. I’ve become more open to a wider pool of resources. As the world changes so does history, and I like to stay up on changing events. Not gossip, but more: how is the world doing? Reading has helped me keep up on that.
Kyle: How do you think the issue of males being less proficient readers than females can be solved?
Chris Bolton: I think there's a terrible standard in our society that says, basically, "Boys play football. Girls read books." That's how it's been for decades, and that's how it continues to be viewed in many parts of the country. I think part of the solution, obviously, comes from parents reading to their kids -- the boys too, not just the girls -- and teaching them from a young age that reading is not just OK for boys, but actually fun.
The next level comes in schools. We have to pass along the sense that "reading is fun" because it's very easy for it to turn sour fast. Once we reach the point where boys associate "reading" with "skim three chapters of this boring, bone-dry textbook in one night to prepare for a test tomorrow that's worth half your grade," forget it. A boy who struggles with that as part of his nightly homework anxiety isn't going to pick up a book for fun ever again -- he'll wait for the movie.
There's also a HUGE stigma that gets attached to boys who have trouble reading. They're labeled "problem students" at a young age, which to a lot of people (students and instructors alike) just means "dumb." A lot of people see reluctant readers as a lost cause and give up on them. If the adults in their lives have given up on them, why would any of these boys believe in themselves?
Some of these problems are deeply embedded in society -- not just stereotypes and behaviors, but our school system. There isn't enough time or money for a teacher with forty kids crammed into her class to give each one the individual attention they need. But we have to tackle the problem at the most basic level first, which is allowing boys to discover how enjoyable reading can be, and continuing to promote that.
Kyle: What was your favorite book as a child? Now?
Chris Bolton: As a kid, I would have to say that Spider-Man comics were my addiction. I also loved The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien and the Bunnicula books by James and Deborah Howe.
Today, it's hard to pick an absolute favorite. Two classics that I love and have reread several times are Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. However, if I had to pick just ONE book that I've read and reread maybe a half-dozen times, it would be the novel Straight Man by Richard Russo. I often think that in another life, I might have been a college professor much like the main character in that book.
Kyle: Why do you believe that is important to develop and maintain a passion for reading throughout your life?
Chris Bolton: On the most basic level, language is how we communicate ideas and inspiration. These can be shared verbally, of course, but the best way for me to receive them is through reading.
Still, not everyone enjoys sitting down and reading a book. I think it's very important to point out that people read in many different ways: looking at pictures, reading an eBook on an iPad or e-reader, or listening to audiobooks. My brother Kyle listens to audiobooks while he draws, and he actually finishes more books than I do! I have trouble with audiobooks because my mind wanders if my eye isn't focused, but for Kyle it's ideal.
The point is, there's no "wrong" way to read. Whatever works for you is great, and you should feel good about it -- no matter what anyone else says. Kyle Bolton: Books are a passport. Be it on paperback or a tablet, reading is a great escape. It’s a personal experience. A connection. And as you grow older you’ll find that making those connections is the secret to a happier existence.
Kyle: How do you determine whether or not to read a book? (i.e. read the back, read the first chapter, etc.)
Kyle Bolton: It’s simple. The first few lines need to get my attention. Something in the writer's use of the language has to reach me somehow.
Chris Bolton: I want a book to grab me from page one, either through the voice of the narrator/main character or a strong set-up. I can't really tell you what I look for, but I sure know it when I see it! I'm kind of a slow reader, mainly because my head is filled with so many of my own stories and ideas. If a book doesn't grab me right away and keep me interested, my mind will drift to my own creations very easily -- and sometimes, never go back. But when it does hook me, it will be tough to get that book out of my hands!