Helping Boys Succeed in School: 7 Tips to Foster Reading
We’ve all seen the headlines by now and heard the debates about who is to blame and what’s to be done about the difficulty boys are having in school. Why are boys – up to 40% of them – considered reluctant readers? Why are boys now being significantly outnumbered by girls in college acceptances each year?
As a mom of three boys, it worries me when I read headlines about how boys today are, for the first time, entering adulthood less educated and with fewer employment opportunities than their fathers.
As a mom of three boys, it worries me when I read headlines about how boys today are, for the first time, entering adulthood less educated and with fewer employment opportunities than their fathers. What happened? I recently was sent a copy of the book “Jump-Starting Boys” by Pam Withers and Cynthia Gill and it was fascinating to read their analysis of the problem and tips for fixing it. According to the book, the problem with boys in school is not a learning problem, but specifically a reading and writing problem! The authors argue, “boys aren’t in crisis. They are the underdogs only when it comes to reading and writing. If they find their grades slipping relative to girls, it’s not because they are less intelligent than girls, but because they’re less motivated.”
And this is no surprise – boys have always been (in general) slower to start reading and begin enjoying reading on a regular basis. There are several reasons given in the book for why this trend is so prevalent now, but among them was listed the fact that the majority of children's book writers, editors, and librarians are female – and that subject matter that tends to appeal to young boys (super heroes, war stories, etc) are less likely to be offered. Another reason can be a lack of positive role modeling in the reading arena – especially from other males.
What is a caring parent to do?
Hearing that the problem isn’t “learning in general” but specifically centered around reading and writing was very encouraging to me. I pulled several fabulous tips out of this book that I can begin implementing with my 3rd grade son immediately.
Here are my favorites:
1. Allow for reading material that HE enjoys – Picture books, graphic novels, etc. Even if I think he should be beyond that. Enjoying the reading process is the most important thing at this stage.
2. Keep him in the reading game – Continue to read aloud and discuss books together as a family (involving a male role model in this process can be especially important).
3. Introduce him to books in a variety of ways – Audio books and interactive books for iPads or computers can serve to reinforce reading comprehension skills in a fun way.
4. Let boys move – One of the youth book club founders mentioned that the girls were more likely to sit and look at the book, while boys in attendance would play with their snacks on their plates or lounge on the floor pillows, etc. But they were STILL engaged and listening, even though they were moving!
5. Figure out your son’s learning style – And once you do, make sure you encourage plenty of that type of learning – at home if necessary.
6. Limit screen time – No more than one-two hours per day. (Our family has one day each week that is electronics free and it has transformed us).
7. Focus less on “self-esteem building” – Instead of praising a child for existing, praise him for his perseverance, hard-work, and service/acts of kindness.
I loved these tips. Some of them we do already as a family but some, like remembering to allow boys to move and feel things physically, were great reminders to me. My son is about a year behind my daughter in reading and writing but he’s still engaged and enjoying himself and I want to keep it that way! He recently, for the first time, started reading free-choice and it was a Christian graphic novel. Now I am encouraged that letting him tackle that book was the right decision!
What do you do in your family to encourage reading skills in your boys?