In this day and age of testing, one fact has become apparent to educators and parents: Boy readers are on a decline.
Statistically, girls score higher, read more and consider reading more enjoyable than boys from toddlers through adults. Why? And what can parents do to help foster strong boy readers?
Many factors play into the lack of happiness boys feel from reading.
First, most reading at home is often done with mom or a female member of the family. Often the books rhyme or have funny characters or plots that appeal more to girls. How often does an informational book get chosen? Or a book about a sports character? All reading with children is time well spent, but catering more to your boy’s interests will help to nurture him as a reader.
Second, when it comes time for presents or rewards, girls often get books while sports equipment or hands-on toys are given to boys.
In our culture, boys learn from an early age that athletic skills are valued higher than academic skills. What words are often used to describe a boy reading in the school courtyard versus the boys out on the playground? What about the boy that chooses to read instead of watch sports? Parents should praise their boys for their time spent reading. Those boys can benefit from seeing positive male figures in his life reading, too.
What can parents do at home? Studies show that academically, it takes boys longer to learn how to read than girls.
Celebrate the small milestones your child accomplishes when learning to read. Determine your child’s preferences in reading and interests. For example, many boys enjoy reading how-to books or informational books. Visit the public library for books on different topics - not just fiction books. Many magazines published in recent years might be of interest for boys such as Sports Illustrated for Kids; Boys Life; and Ask and Odyssey, both science publications.
Finally, books can be great rewards or incentives for children. No matter the ages or how many children in a family, sons (and daughters) really enjoy one-on-one attention from a parent. This can be one of the most valued times in a child’s life (and it is free). Use a book and some one-on-one time with a child as a prize or as special time. Not many kids will turn that down!
I will end on one of the best stories about a male role model demonstrating the importance of reading (thanks Dr. Eckert). A principal visited a classroom where the students were participating in silent reading. He joined in with his reading selection. As a bookmark, he used a $20 bill, which, of course, piqued the interest of students.
He explained that the bookmark symbolized how reading brought him true wealth and accomplishments in his life. Reading allowed him to become the person he was that day. Celebrate the boy reader in your life!
Lissy Wood is a Triangle mom of two and founder of Wake Gifted Academy, which is schedule to open in June 2015 with summer camps.