I get a lot of press releases land in my inbox, many of which I don't always have the time or inclination to read but one that arrived recently from the National Literacy Trust about gender and reading caught my eye. I'm quite a pushy parent when it comes to reading, I will admit.
It has been reported that when it comes to reading, there is a gender gap with many boys underachieving and falling behind girls in reading. Apparently last year 60,000 boys failed to reach the expected level in reading by age 11 and the gap is widening. Boys are less likely to be given books as presents and more likely to prefer watching TV than girls. Action is required and that action needs to start at home where the gender gap starts.
Having both a boy and a girl at home, I must say I have noticed a difference in their approach to reading and thought this was pretty much par for the course. I have always provided them with tons of books and a bedtime story has been part of our routine since they were 3-4 months old. They both love books and have shelves groaning under the weight.
When my son started school (he's just turned five now) he wasn't too interested in reading for himself although he has always loved looking at books and having stories read to him. He can be incredibly stubborn but I was surprised to find that with a little encouragement (and occasionally a small amount of bribery) he became more willing to try and has slowly but steadily progressed to a place where, whilst he can't read and understand everything, he enjoys trying and is so proud of himself when he finishes a book on his own.
We read together everyday without fail, normally his school reading book but if we have time, a book of his choosing too. I've come to notice that he particularly enjoys non-fiction books and because I want him to carry on learning and enjoying reading, I recently asked him what his favourite things to read about were and bought him a stack of books from Amazon that he can read at his own pace, whenever he likes.
I can't force him to love reading but I can hopefully help him find out that it can be fun and it doesn't have to be a chore.
The National Literacy Trust has shared some handy tips about how to help boys engage with and enjoy reading.
1. Make reading active - Boys thrive on activity, so incorporate this into reading time. Get your sons to "act out" what they have read, and pretend to be book characters - you can join in too!
2. Provide male reading models - Male role models are really important. Fathers, grandfathers, uncles and older brothers can all play their part by letting younger boys see them reading. It doesn't matter if it's the newspaper, or a book or a recipe. In copying reading behaviour boys will gain confidence and get to be great readers too.
3. It doesn't have to be just books - Reading is reading no matter what it is. Reading doesn't have to mean just sitting down with a book; words are everywhere. Use road signs, posters, television guides and shopping lists to get your boys reading. Also magazines and comics are a great way to encourage boy to read as they tend to be visual learners.
4. Give lots of praise - Boys thrive on praise and will love getting attention for positive behaviours! When he is reading well, give him encouragement and be specific rather than general about the praise you are giving. If a boy can understand exactly what he has done to earn the praise he will learn more quickly.
5. Use an interest as a hook - If there is a hobby or sport your son likes, find relevant fictional or non-fictional books that will appeal to him. Whether your boy likes soldiers, nature, aeroplanes, pirates or motorbikes, go to the library together and look for books on the subject.
6. Build regular reading time into the day - Set aside a regular time to read with boys and listen to them reading. Ask younger boys to point out things in the pictures. Don’t stop reading with boys once they can read themselves, as boys can switch off from reading once they know the basics.
7. Experiment with genres - Encourage boys to try out a variety of books and authors to see what suits their taste - fast-paced adventure, horror and science-fiction are often popular, as are fact-based books such as the Guinness Book of Records.
I second point number 3 - we recently went out for the day to visit a National Trust property and my son had more fun that you can imagine trying to read the map and guide us around the grounds. He did it successfully and as it was completely his idea we were rather proud of him!
I'd love to know your views on this subject. Do you think boys fall behind? Do you treat your son differently to your daughter in terms of your expectations around reading? Do you have any ideas on how to engage your son and make reading more fun?
Thanks for stopping by and reading.