Getting Boys Reading

Getting Boys Reading

How do we create a “Fluency-Facilitating Environment?”

There is more to getting boys reading than simply providing a list of “Best Books For Boys” for example, Stormbreaker – Anthony Horowitz, Tombraider -Graphic Novel, Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Here Lies Arthur – Phillip Reeve or one that is fast disappearing off the shelves – The Dangerous Book For Boys – Conn Iggulden. The latter even has a link on the Amazon page where you can enjoy a video trailer with your son, showing how a Dad leaves early from work to spend a quality day with his son. The two of them ditch the lonely PS Game to enjoy the “boy thing” activities and sports of the book, such as kite-making,together.

However, boys cannot access these books independently unless they are fluent readers, and promoting literacy and fluency begins early on. In the early days, providing a fluency-facilitating environment usually begins at home, broadening out later to include childcare and kindergarten.

There are some simple strategies for providing a pro-active literacy culture even in the most mundane everyday activities, which we can build seamlessly into such outings as taking your toddler for the weekly shop. For example, he sits in the trolley seat? Give him the list. Let him hold it even if it is only for a few minutes. (If this learning game is too successful and he won’t give it back – have two lists!) At first you will have to interpret the text for him. He will feel important – he is in charge – he has “the words” He even directs the trolley down the correct lanes. He sees that the words have import and are relevant to his life.

Help him to make connections between list item and label. You will be surprised how quickly he can do this – after all it relates to his favourite cookies and candy or maybe not-so-favourite healthy breadsticks and carrot sticks. When he is older he can have a little list of his own with things to pick out. This strategy can be repeated for TV schedules, recipes, playlists and maps. Unless a child has an underlying disability issue which needs professional diagnosis,a “text-aware” household will have him equipped with “reading-readiness” skills ready for kindergarten.

From kindergarten onwards we hear the phrase “Reading is the Open Door to Knowledge” – yet for some of us parents, although we accept the likely truth of this statement, it fills us with dismay. Even for parents of the brightest sons,(often the most frustrating situation of all) the question remains – how to get them through that door! When faced with the instant gratification and thirst for excitement that the Playstation or Computer or Skatepark or Mobile Phone Texting activity can provide, how can we encourage them to even notice that books exist let alone engender in them an appreciation of literature, a thirst for knowledge or even enough interest to pass an exam? When it comes to the open door, do we push,or coax them through it?

As a teacher/parent/home educator of a bright 12 yr old son in a mainstream school I have escaped this scenario – just ! – by the skin of my teeth! At last my son is hooked on books. From showing huge reluctance to even open a cover (this act signifying the start of some kind of hard work) he went to the other extreme of reluctance to put some books down until he had found out “what would happen.” Books in this category recently have been “The Subtle Knife” – Phillip Pullman, “The Amber Spyglass”,”The Darkling Plain” – Phillip Reeve, the Alex Rider Books – Anthony Horowitz – and the one one that worked best for him was “Mortal Engines”- Phillip Reeve. Im afraid Harry Potter still leaves him cold!

Here is my “How I Did It” Article. These tips may not work for eveyone but there might be an idea or two that will work for some of you!

1.Any kind of books! That includes comics, newspapers and any other literature they see you reading (share it with them, where suitable)Do not underestimate the necessity of poetry,nursery rhymes, nonsense rhymes and folk tales. The rhythms, rhymes and scansion techniques experienced in these will stay with them and influence their fluency later on. Occasionally get “the book of the film/dvd etc”. Let them read over and over again if that is what they want to do, while gradually introducing new ones.

We live in a world highly influenced by consumerism and your son will be affected by this. Libraries are great of course, but let him visit a real bookshop occasionally. Here – as in most consumer outlets – presentation is everything! The latest titles/films/TV merchandising are laid out specifically to entice, whereas in the library, efficiency or expediency may be foremost. It doesn’t matter if its Disney rather than Dickens at this stage – it is developing the reading habit early on that is paramount. Once this is achieved, greater variety and more challenging material will follow.

Many boys are perfectly capable of imaginative and fluent thought but find the sheer physical effort of writing it down laborious and off-putting. There are many suitable sites for younger children on the internet where you can supervise their research/reading and even encourage them to write, sometimes for competitions. My own son wrote 3 stories in a row in an effort to win one – and got very keen on writing on the internet. Its quick, its typing – not writing. Again, its the habit of writing that should come first.

Lets bring it back! When your son has homework, why not let him dictate what he wants to write to you? He could even have a dictaphone!(Boys love gadgets!) You could then type it up and he will have the satisfaction of seeing his work, word-perfect in print. Of course, we would hope to wean him off any total dependence on this method later. However, again, let him get the habit first – but watch his confidence blossom to begin with.

Again, children are hyper media-aware. Use this to your sons advantage. He has a favourite show? Great. Get the comic/magazine/bumper annual at Christmas – even if it IS the Simpsons. Steel yourself to read and discuss it with him and even watch the show together. Let him translate his enjoyment of it to the written word.

Getting our sons reading is a challenge, but it is a gift worth the effort and the new horizon that books will bring them is a gift that will stay with them throughout their adult lives.