Read Like A Pro: It's Time To Make Reading An Enjoyable Experience For Boys
By Donovan Grant
Why there is such a big disconnect between reading and boys? You may experience this challenge with your own son; if you do, I can assure you that you share this frustration with many. With the increasing number of boys coming up short in the reading department, this deserves for us to have another look.
Let's start with some statistics that nearly frightened the life out of me…
- Girls at the age of 15 read twice as much as boys
- Boys are less likely to pass the SATs, apply for university and earn a degree
- 8 out of 10 secondary school dropouts are male
- Boys are less confident that they will achieve their goals for the future.
- Boys who are non-readers are twice as likely to become incarcerated as boys who are readers.
I don’t know about you but as I have a 9 year old son, information likes this makes want to lean in and listen more closely.
These statistics came from sources on the internet and they do not paint a pretty picture for our boys. Do these stats cause you to raise an eyebrow? The thing is, even if they don’t represent every section of our community, there is a clear message: the outcome of boys becoming readers or not could have huge societal implications. It’s time for us to have a heart for the struggles that boys face as they are growing up.
How do we know boys are anti-reading?
There are of course a myriad of reasons why boys generally don’t read much including preconceptions about boys and stringent classroom rules and standards. As a father and a mentor I see first hand the challenges of getting boys interested in reading and finding the right book that might spark their interest.
When we look at it from the boys’ viewpoint we get a clearer picture. Here’s a few reasons:
- Boys do not have a choice what books they want to read
- Some cultures have their own factors that discourage boys from reading
- Public image and stereotypical views keep boys away from going to the library
- There is a lack of male role models in schools and libraries
- The absence of fathers in the reading & library experience
Ok, why don’t boys go to the library?
There is a minority of boys that go to the library. Many do not. But, let’s face the real truth here: girls and boys are not the same. Girls read more than boys. Boys learn differently from girls. Boys are not girls. Yet, often times you will see librarians asking boys to be girls! “WHAT!”
Let me explain with an everyday example…
Boys tend to be louder, more boisterous, and more physical than girls. When they exhibit these traits in a public library, they are shushed, glared at, and made to feel unwelcome in a hundred different ways. Some of the boys may actually be told to leave. This makes boys feel that the library is not a place for them, so they don’t go. Result: Reading slips down the agenda.
There is the obvious counter argument that this is an excuse and boys should behave themselves and show more discipline. Yes, I totally agree. If you have boys in your life, you’ll also know that it is not always so easy for a young man growing up in a physical, mental, emotional and energetic way to be quiet and keep still for long!
Surely boys read in the literature class in school?
Many boys fail to make any significant connection with what goes on in the language arts classroom. Even passionate teachers may be of little help, so long as they insist on imposing the conventional “great literature" on all students. Let’s be clear, the students who resist traditional reading are by no means necessarily illiterate. Many are highly competent readers of computer manuals, sports magazines, graphic novels and internet communications–to name just a few. Many are passionate about these alternative literary activities. But they find no reinforcement for them in school; often, it is quite the opposite.
Is it time to reach students first through the literate activities they already know and value? This could tap into their interests and sometimes this unconventional reading material is the ideal way to engage boys in meaningful and real activities. Then, if all goes well, they will begin to seek out wonder and meaning in ways that go deeper than the surface. The door may open, for some, on that world of symbolic, philosophical, emotional meaning that is so valued by teachers and other lifelong readers.
From personal experience, I believe that Dads play such a huge role in getting their children interested in reading. I would go further to say that it's hard to find a better reading role model for boys than their dad!
Here are five top ideas to encourage your boys to read more:
- Allow them to have a wide range of books to read including: Action & Adventure, Biographies & Memoirs, Expeditions, Fantasy, Humour and Mystery, just to name a few
- Encourage them that a newspaper, instruction manuals, sports stats and web pages are all text that can offer ways of enjoying reading
- Discuss the books that they read with them
- Share some 'read aloud' time with them
- Dad's need to let their sons see them reading often.
For many children, reading is a journey that requires a measure of courage and risk taking. It is also one of the most deeply satisfying and pleasurable things to do and definitely one of the most useful. If your son is struggling to get to grips with read try one of the tips above and just take it one day at a time.
Let’s inspire our boys to become lifelong readers.
I believe in our boys and love to hear your messages every day!
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Donovan Grant is a coach, mentor, blogger, speaker and IT professional who brings his wisdom of parenting for the last 21 years and coaching clients through the stages of raising youth and empowering leaders with life lessons that are changing generations. He is a passionate and committed leader who believes that we all have the ability to help to change someone else’s life. Actively doing so as a catalyst for many years he teaches how to live a life of success, balance, integrity and fun, whether at work or at play. www.donovangrant.com