Sadly, we live in times, when children are more likely to spend their time playing a computer game, rather than read a book, even more so for boys. Research consistently shows that boys’ reading lags behind girls.One of the recent studies, undertaken by the University of Dundee , which looked at the reading habits of more than two million children, found that “boys of all ages read less thoroughly than girls, skipping parts of the book and choosing material that is too easy for them.”
A few years ago, I read the book, “Calmer, Easier and Happier boys” by Noel Janis-Norton , who gives simple strategies for the unique challenges of raising motivated, co operative and confident boys. She gives advice on how to bring the best in boys at home and at school. Her chapters on improving literacy and thinking skills as well as how to make home learning more productive and enjoyable have been very beneficial for me. So here is a summary of some of her tips along with my own experience of how to motivate boys to read more.
- Have a daily reading time – it is extremely important to establish a time when all your family members read. It does not have to be long, it can be 15/20 min to start and you can set a timer too. In my house, we usually do this straight after lunch time- it is what I call our quiet time too and at the moment it works really well for us, as usually around this time my youngest two (12 months old and the 2.5 year old will have their lunch nap). My children are allowed to either go to their bedrooms or they can be in the playroom/study room and read a book. I usually use that time to read to my 5 year old, who is not a fluent reader yet.
- Be an example -No matter what reading programme or curriculum we choose for our children to read, ultimately if we do not read and show them that reading is not a chore or something to be ticked off our never ending lists of things which our children have accomplished, then sadly our children will not see the gift of reading and the magic that it brings. So it is extremely important for your son to see you that you are reading a book, not just newspapers and magazines.I often tell my children what I am reading at the moment and what I am finding interesting.
- Read alouds- Even when your son knows how to read, do not stop reading to him, still continue with your read aloud. As Janis-Norton mentions in her book ” When they are being read to, children can understand far more complex concepts, sentence construction and vocabulary because all of their brain is free to focus on comprehension, whereas when they are doing the reading , a large part of the brain is taken up with the task of decoding. And when parents , read aloud with expression, that helps the child to understand even better what is happening and why.” It is also normal for boys to be distracted and to be restless and of course to moan and complain that the book is too long or too boring . You, however, should not give up and decide to wait until he is ready to listen or when he is more mature. You can still have a read aloud to him even if it is just 1/2 minutes. Consistency is extremely important
- Choice of books- Boys , unlike girls, are usually more interested in fiction books rather than non fiction and narratives. Fiction books are usually more attractive to them because of all the facts and that they tend to do have more colourful pictures. My eldest son, when he was young used to love looking at Encyclopedias and Dinosaur/Train fact books etc. My other 2 year old son is exactly the same and going through an obsession at the moment of looking at dino books and asking for their names. According to Janes-Norton , it is important to choose books with pictures, bright colours and illustrations, books that are also funny and of course the grosser the better. My son absolutely loved Dirtie Bertie when he was younger .Choose also books that have action and excitement-exploring, creating, chasing, discovering, training animals and of course sport. Last but not least, choose a book with a hero, that your son can identify with.
- Listen to your son read aloud- even though my 8 year old is a fluent reader, I often listen to him reading his book. He quiet enjoys it too , as it is also a nice way of spending one on one time with mummy . My husband also often listens to him too, so make sure to involve your partners as well.
- Audio books- I know there are various opinions on them , and some argue that audio books can make children lazy to read. I have found it the opposite with my son- we often listen to an audio book together and more often than not it has actually led to him wanting to read the book too. We have subscription to audible , which we absolutely love and it certainly is a bit hit here in my household , but we also borrow audio books from the library . If there is Cd to the book, you can listen to it , with the book open and have your son follow along with his finger. This is really good for short books and it does not have to be long, max 5/10 min.
- Whatever approach you choose to follow , it is extremely important to be consistent , so that a routine can be established.
I hope you found these tips useful. I would love to know if you have any boys who are reluctant readers, what approach did you take and what has worked for you.
Peace and blessings