We sometimes hear parents complaining that their sons don’t want to read. Some may want to read about space, cars, dinosaurs or sharks but others…
Parents sometimes find themselves at their wits end trying to make them read but we find that by having a wide range of resources to offer them, we are more likely to find something that presses the “Reading Button”! It’s a little like having a Tool Box that is just one box but with a range of tools inside to complete many functions.
Here are some “tools” you could try:
1: Find out what makes them tick. If they are reluctant or struggling to read, make a point of finding out about their interests and hunt down reading material that will be engaging for them. It doesn’t have to be a book; comics, magazines, newspapers or blogs all help to develop reading skills.
2: Give them structure to their reading. Boys in particular respond well to structure; more than 10 minutes might be too long for some so why not try setting a timer for 3-5 minutes. Then take a minute to discuss, draw or record a summary of what they have read. Discussion is key to reading as it confirms understand of what they have read. You can add repeats of this, lengthening the time actually reading as they become more confident.
3: Progression. Find books that match your child’s reading ability so they read with success and become more confident. Once this happens, an enthusiasm for reading will develop and you can move them to more challenging books, still within their interest, whilst praising them for their progress and success.
4: Peer Pressure. Encourage them to become a Reading Champion at school. Volunteering in the library and reading with younger students will not only boost their confidence but they will be seen as one of the “cool” kids that get invited to support at Literacy events and celebrations; use peer pressure in a positive way!
5: Tempt them in. A popular way to generate interest in a particular book is to show a film trailer; something we often do for Drop Everything and Read Days! You could create a “Trailer” for a book by reading extracts of the exciting bits to draw them into wanting to read. Never read the opening; film trailers never show the opening, just the exciting parts!
6: Beware Non-Fiction Overdose! As toddlers and at primary school, all children loved being read to. Don’t assume boys only want to read non-fiction; they adore stories they can lose themselves in. Just a chapter a night leaving them excited to read the next instalment. Non-fiction may lead to lazy reading; dipping in and out of facts etc without any sustained reading.
7: Find a Purpose: For those who are not yet reading for pleasure, make their reading task-oriented. Link it to something they are studying at school and they may not even realise that they are reading! Research and read with them before leaving them to read independently about Science, History or Geography topics but explain they will have to give you a short presentation on their findings. Children love to role play – let them teach you!
8: Get Competitive: Set them a challenge! By increasing the number of books and the regularity of reading, we increase the chances of them developing good reading habits. We learn lots of behavioural habits through rewards and, whilst rewarding reading can be a contentious issue, motivation to read sets a pattern for later in life. Set a challenge to read against the clock, to read a set number of books by Christmas, over summer, per school term etc and the habit of reading will soon become a part of their daily routine. Why not reward the most important learning behaviour of all?
9: Be Active: After reading a few paragraphs, try a second read through and encourage your child to give a physical response to the text. Ask them to spot particular grammatical or literary features and give hand signals to indicate e.g. thumbs up for verbs and adverbs, a wave for adjectives, an air-punch for similes and metaphors etc. Make up your own signals that make reading fun!
10: Go Digital: Youngster today are reading even when they don’t realise it: computer game instructions, rules, comics, magazines, on-line social media posts etc. E-reading can appeal to some children and may disguise the fact that they are reading an easier text than their peers. It can spare embarrassment and fits easier into a perceived male culture, giving some boys permission to read.
There are many ways of encouraging boys to read. Try some of the “tricks” here, mix and match and you will find the right combination of “tools” with this Tool Box approach!
Happy Reading, happy boys!