As a child I hid from the stereotypical playground antics where a minority of boys would single out other boys because they were “freaks”. What was freakish about wearing glasses and reading books?
We all know boys fight, play football and hang around kicking their heels, right? Typically, girls, who mature much earlier than boys, have discovered the joy of reading for pleasure much earlier.
But this stereotyping is having a negative affect on boys developing adequate communication skills. We need to get boys reading fiction books.
This research by the Reading Agency, which assessed the non-academic side effects of reading for pleasure, shows some startling results. They show that young boys reading for pleasure increases self esteem and reduces anxiety and stress. But the Reading Agency also found that in the UK, almost a third of adults do not read for enjoyment. Is there a correlation?
“Isn’t it a little odd that Mum may go to a book club with other Mums but Dad doesn’t have an equivalent fiction reading bunch of mates?”
Kids read for fun. Not because it’s on the school curriculum or because it’s a classic that all kids should have read for their age group but just for the joy of it. The best way to nurture that passion is for kids to see it for themselves in their parents.
There has been some great progress in identifying unconventional role models for reading. Frank Lampard is doing a fantastic job. I certainly wish something like this had been around when I was a boy. You can read more about how Frank is involved in improving child literacy here
But the best role model that a boy has is his father. So pick up a trashy novel and get reading. It’s not the contents that is important to the child, it’s the tactile association.
My Dad is so absorbed in a book. The same way he is, in the moment, watching a football match or barbecuing. There must be something in it.
Mimicry perhaps? Unfortunately, we need to be wary of e-readers. A paper book has a feel to it and a smell. Not only do paper books excite the senses, for a child, it’s difficult to tell if Dad is reading on a tablet or just checking the footie scores.
My recommendations for young boys is to start early. The more natural is it to see Dad lost in a book the easier it is for the child to accept it as normal. A sudden shift in Dad’s behaviour can throw the whole family dynamic. Take your boy to the library. Don’t say anything, just do your own thing. If something catches his eye then let him investigate further. Don’t offer any suggestions. Just borrow your own book. If you leave empty handed first time, so be it. Don’t make an issue of the event just let the brilliance of a library slowly become routine. The secret is to allow the child to voluntarily find a book and begin to read. Get involved in the Reading Agency’s Summer Reading Challenge.
Follow websites like lovereading4kids which catagorises books by gender and age so you can find books that might spark a boys imagination. Another useful resource is the Guardian newspaper Children’s books site. But my guess is that you already know David Walliams, Michael Morpugo, or maybe even Philip Pullman? Boys writing books!!
Another great resource is children’s literature guide from supersummary.com. SuperSummary is an online resource that is committed to helping you get the most out of the books that you’re reading. Inside, you’ll find 40 individual resources for kids, teachers and parents, including websites that offer texts to read online and literature-themed games.
Dads, you should read the kids books too. They are brilliant. Why else would Steven Spielberg make movies based on children’s books? Make sure they see you reading and read fiction to them too but most of all make it fun. Let’s get boys reading fiction books!