Friday, September 2, 2011

Getting Boys to Read—Part Two

(continued from page one—Getting Boys to Read)

If boys see their fathers or other important male figure, reading, they’re more likely to read. “They need to see men and books together,” he says.

Start with what he loves. If your son or student loves sports, find fiction books that focus on sports or non-fiction books about his favorite athlete. If he’s into detective movies or t.v. shows, try introducing him to mystery books. This is a particularly effective way to introduce reading to a boy who protests that he “hates reading.”

Show reading can be fun and entertaining. “Humor is underrated on school reading lists, but boys love it,” says John Sciezska, author, The Stinky Cheese Man. “Calvin and Hobbes, Lemony Snicket, those books get them excited about reading, because it’s fun. It’s important for parents and teachers to accept these things as reading, instead of acting like it’s not ‘real’ reading, like there’s something wrong with them. Those books will get boys hooked on reading.”

Help boys find books that relate to who they are or what they’re doing now. “Boys like to read what’s toolish, not schoolish,” says Jeff Wilhelm, associate professor of English education at Boise State University and one of the nation’s leading authorities on boys and literacy. By “toolish,” Wilhelm is referring to anything that connects to boys’ daily life, interests, and imagination. “Boys prefer reading things that have something they can immediately use, talk about, argue about, or do something with,” he says. “They are very, very impatient with the reading they do in school, because it’s not useful or interesting to them. Even worse, they then have to take a test on it.”

Wilhelm points to a major study of boys grades 6 to 12 as an example. “These were great kids, very smart. Some went on to places like Harvard and MIT. But they were all cynical about reading, as it was promoted at school and by many adults in their lives,” he says.

Expand your own idea of what reading is. Don’t discourage boys from reading what they like. Unfortunately, sometimes what boys like to read isn’t recognized or supported by their schools or families. “Teachers and parents often conceived of reading narrowly, as ‘literature’ only, and failed to see that there’s all kinds of reading that boys do, like magazines and even formulaic novels,” Wilhelm says. “Even expert adult readers go through phases of reading pulp fiction or romance novels. It’s something boys outgrow, but it helps develop skills.”

Allow boys to choose their reading material. “Reading choices made for boys frequently do not reflect their preferences, since girls are clearer and more vocal about what books they want, elementary school teachers are predominantly women, and mothers rather than fathers select reading materials for their children,” says Wendy Schwartz in the article “Helping Underachieving Boys Read Well and Often.” (www.ericdigests. org/2003-2/boys.html).

Male perspectives need to be considered in the selection of reading material. Boys who read the sports page or instruction manual should be applauded, Schwartz says. “The reading that boys do should not be dismissed as inconsequential even though it often does not include the novels and other traditional materials usually read by girls,” Schwartz says. “The genres preferred by boys can be equally helpful in their development of reading, thinking, and problem-solving skills, and should be considered key resources in their education.”

Getting Boys to Read, copyright 2008 and 2011 by Just Us Books, Inc. All rights reserved.
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