TV personality and NHS paediatrician hopes to inspire young readers with his new book How To Be A Boy
It is an empowering and inclusive guide, helping readers to discover the type of boy they want to be.
The book includes contributions from a wide range of voices and experts. They include Jake Graf on his experiences as a trans man; cook and stylist Gok Wan on loving your body and Gethin Jones on leadership.
Please tell me about yourself
I’m a London-based NHS doctor, author and TV presenter. I’ve been working in the NHS for the past 20 years. I specialise as a consultant in paediatric emergency medicine. When you bring your child to A&E, I’m person you’ll see.
Alongside my medical career, for the past 10 years or so, I’ve been developing an on-screen role going from ‘couch expert’ to presenter in my own right.
I’ve co-created and presented BAFTA-award-winning shows, fronted my own series, competed in Strictly Come Dancing, and even won cooking contests. It’s been quite a rollercoaster.
To add to that variety in job roles, I’ve more recently started writing books. I have written nine books so far, eight of which are for children and young people and had two Sunday Times Best-Sellers.
Writing has been such a wonderful journey for me and opened up a whole new world I never thought I would be a part of but I have loved every minute.
What and who inspired How to Be a Boy and Do It Your Own Way
It was more born out of necessity than inspiration. Boys and young men are bombarded with so many messages these days, from peers, people in authority and the media – especially social media – about how they should be. It can be confusing to navigate this, especially if you feel ‘different’ to what is expected.
Some of these messages may even be toxic and reinforce negative behaviours and stereotypes.
I wanted to change that narrative and let young boys know that they can be whatever and whoever they are and should only ever strive to be their best. No matter who you are, where you are from, what your background is, or whatever your ability is, you have the right and potential to be amazing.
What were the real life experiences which led you to write this book
Conversations around ‘toxic masculinity’ and some of the examples of bad male behaviour we have seen on our screens and online were the driving force. But I didn’t want it to be a negative learning experience.
I wanted to showcase positive ‘masculinity’ in all its shapes and forms and demonstrate how masculinity isn’t one thing.
Traditional stereotypes, certainly when I was growing up, may have dictated that men need to be a specific way. However, modern views on masculinity are changing and it’s much more inclusive than it has been. This is something that I’ve learned as an adult – especially since coming out.
I’ve added some of my own experiences in the book but also those of other people whom I look to for inspiration. I want any reader to be able to pick this book up and see a bit of themselves or something they can relate to, in it.
What age range is the book aimed at and what do you hope readers will take from it
How To Be A Boy is aimed at ten to 13 year-olds, although people younger and older than this might still find it a useful read. It’s aim is to engage young people at a time when they are pondering questions about who they are and how they fit in to the world around them, as well as thinking about things like relationships with others, mental and physical wellbeing and keeping safe in a digital world.
I want readers to feel empowered to be themselves and to recognise that the best way to ‘be a boy’ is actually to be a good human being.
Obviously, there is a big focus on looking after your physical and mental health. However understanding others, respect for difference, compassion, expressing your identity, learning your self worth, leadership, allyship, emotional intelligence and showing kindness are themes that resonate throughout the book and I hope will inspire readers to be better.
It’s great you have voices from different men from all walks of life and doing most diverse range of jobs/careers – who inspired you growing up
The book is peppered with interviews from some incredible people whom I personally find inspiring with a range of different identities and backgrounds.
They offer their advice and insights on everything from identity, to sexuality, to mental wellbeing, to feminism, to leadership. Plus there are key moments where we highlight real-life role models who have done and continue to do amazing things.
I did this because I didn’t actually have many role models or people I could look up to growing up. There were not people on screen who looked like me or came from my background. I had some wonderful school teachers who always encouraged me to do my best, but I didn’t really have someone to aspire to. So I deliberately chose a broad and diverse range of faces, stories, voices and examples in this book. I want to show all children that they are seen, and they can be just as amazing as anyone else.
What are your upcoming and next projects
I have a new children’s picture book coming out in the summer, which is part of the ‘Superhero’ series we created for pre-and primary school-aged children. I’m hoping to get a few more projects off the ground before doing pantomime again at the end of the year. Oh yes I am! It’s my favourite time of year!
How important is it to you to use your profile to highlight issues such as this
I’m fortunate and privileged to be in the position that I am and to have the roles that I do. They didn’t come without hard work but they also carry with them a level of responsibility and awareness of the impact I might have on others. I try to use that to help others as much as possible. I’ve always said that there is no point in having a public persona or position if you’re not going to use it to do some good. That’s exactly what I hope and aspire to do.
Hopefully a young person will see it and think: if he can do that, so can I.
How to Be a Boy and Do It Your Own Way by Dr Ranj is published by Wren & Rook and is out now. Paperback, £9.99