We have heard it over and over, reading is our path to understanding and learning. However, reading is so much more than just gaining academic knowledge. If we only emphasised muscle development as the chief benefit of play, we would be missing so much of what children get from play. Children learn socialization skills, empath, gamesmanship, patience, perseverance, and develop and strengthen certain parts of their brain through play. And so too, reading does so much more than just strengthen academics and develop vocabulary!
I want boys to realize that reading opens up a wonderful world of friends as well as fun, action, adventure, horror, empathy, understanding and more. Possibilities a boy may never have imagined can be developed while reading. Many a breathtaking journey has been traveled, unchartered areas of the globe discovered, magnificent new friends met, all through reading.
Don’t let you son sit on the sidelines. If he is undisciplined, disinterested or unable to read fluently enough to participate in these wonderful adventures, it is time to take action.
Try one or more of these strategies to help your son develop a love for stories, knowledge and fun contained in books. These strategies will help all boys, but are especially important for reluctant, struggling or disinterested readers.
Expose your son to carefully chosen books. If your child needs to gain weight you would not place dull bland food in front of him. Instead you would fill his plate with wonderful tasting and inviting food. If you desire to entice your child to read you will need to do the same by exposing him to wonderful and inviting books! Not only should you choose well written and well illustrated stories you should also match your child with books that will fill his interests. If your child is a struggling reader, it may mean you will need to spend some time finding books both at his reading and interest level. Which brings me to our next strategy.
Use the libraries and librarians as a great resource. Check with your school and public librarian as they will have access to both interest and reading levels for most books in the library. Trust me, your librarian is used to boys with reading levels below their age (1st grade reading level with 3rd grade interests) and above their reading levels (8th grade reading level, 5th grade interest) and should be able to point you to an acceptable collection of books. And while we are mentioning librarians, they are typically more than happy to help you learn the electronic catalogue systems, which often supply you with reading and interest levels. Ask them to show you and your son how it works. My local library will even show you how to get dozens of free classics on your electronic reading device.
Reading to your son on a regular basis holds great potential to ignite a passion for lifelong reading. Nothing develops a better love of books as well as the stories and adventure contained within them than joint participation. Just your presence alone is often enjoyed by boys and you can really develop a love for books if you read in such a way that heightens the author’s work. Some parents want to open a book and begin reading, and then are disappointed that their child appears disinterested. If that is your son, then start with a discussion of what he thinks the book will be about. Challenge him as to why he thinks the story will progress in a certain way. If you know something about the story, present a question he will want to anticipate the answer to. For instance: “in Treasure Island, young Jim meets an “old sea dog” who tells him tails of sailing on the open seas, what types of tails do you think he will hear about?” (By the way, Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson is available on tablet reading apps such as Kindle, Nook or Kobo for free as are a host of classics boys have loved for many years.)
To help reading times be successful you may need to modify your practices. Allow your child to color or play with something quiet. If you allow them to have a toy, make sure it is something simple like modeling clay or building blocks. Then teach your child how to use their hands and listen. Ask lots of questions to monitor their listening skills. When reading to your child, express your surprise and excitement. Ask your child to guess what will happen next. Talk about why certain twists and turns surprise you. Talking together helps your son create categories in his mind which strengthens comprehension and can only help to increase his joy of reading. A fun alternative is to read a chapter together, then have your child read the next chapter on his own. If you model advanced thinking skills, your child will most likely continue these thinking skills while he is reading on his own.
By reading yourself your child will learn by example. Talk about the books you are reading. Express your pleasure or disappointment in the stories and material you read. My dear Mom recently died and my Dad has moved in with my wife and me.My Dad and I still talk about the books we are reading! During the special reading times, if at all possible you should participate.
Create special reading times. These can be family times when you purpose to cut off media distractions and read to your son or all read along side of each other. In our family we rewarded our children each night they got into bed (brushed, flushed and dressed for bed) by a given time by allowing them to stay up thirty extra minutes to read. Each of my children learned to love this “extra” reading time. If these special times become routine they are especially effective.
Reward your son with recognition. While all children love recognition, most boys seem to thrive with recognition. If you allow your children to watch TV or use a computer or video game, why not have them “earn” time on those less mentally stimulating activities? We would allow our children 30 minutes of TV for every hour they read. Then they could trade in an hour of TV for 30 minutes of video games on the computer. If you want to set up something more formal you can print out incentive charts. You can reward your child for minutes read, chapters read, books read, etc. Develop something that works for your son. Then when your son reaches the goals you set up, make sure they are praised and recognized for the achievement.
All four of my children learned to love reading. While two seemed to naturally devour books, two needed extra prompting. With the simple strategies above you too can pass on the joy of reading to your children even if they are not natural lovers of books.
Do you have ideas to add? Please add to the discussion below.