How many time have you thrown your hands up and said, “I give up”?
For many people, those who care about positive child development, giving up isn’t an option.
Think about how your life would be if you had no access to the written word. This is a reality for many people. For some it’s a physiological issue other it’s psychological. There are also those who by not understanding the importance of reading never bother to develop the skill sufficiently. Until it’s too late.
So what does it take to get a young man to put down his Playstation and pick up a book? There will be those who say that maybe it’s best not to buy one in the first place. But that isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Some parents bribe their kids with games times as a trade off against time spent reading books. The danger of this is that reading then becomes the opposite of things that are fun. That’ll set the ‘Reading for Pleasure movement’ back a bit.
So what do you do? I know teachers, parents and carers who have come up with some clever little ways of getting boys to see reading as a positive force in their lives. Whether it’s as a pleasurable distraction or as a way to gather a wealth of useful information that they can use to enhance their lives. These are some of the insights I’ve gathered. I’ve also thrown in a few that have worked for me over the years.
So here they are, in no particular order.
7 Tips for getting boys into reading:
1. Tell them a story
If it’s a short story, tell it to them. And I mean tell them rather than read. There are a number of reasons why I say this but I’ll expand on that another time. Telling a child a story might sound obvious to some but there are people who are little reluctant. People often think that if you tell a child a story they won’t read it for themselves. But you wouldn’t think that if you knew how much the book sales of the Hunger Games went up after movies came out.
2. Tell them about a story
If it’s a long story, tell them about the story. Be a kind of trailer and get them excited about finding out more. Ok, this might take a bit of practice. But watch TV and movies trailers and have some fun with it.
3. Let them see you reading books.
You sitting and enjoying a good read will often entice a child into reading more than you reading a book to them. It gets their curiosity going. One parent told me that they liked to pretend that they were hiding the book. If, like her, your son wants things they think they’re not allowed to have, this will work a treat.
4. Don’t lean too much on fiction.
Boys get bored easily and often skip to the end of a book to see if the ending of the story is worth the journey. If they don’t think it is they won’t bother. (This behaviour isn’t limited to boys.) That doesn’t work with reference books. Every pages is packed with useful information. So they will at least skim though the whole book to see what’s on offer.
During school library visits, when I tell boys to go get a book to read, most of them come back with reference books of some kind. Books that tell them about dinosaurs or their favourite sporting hero for instance. Remember that boys like to show off. So when they have a sweet piece of knowledge that they can share to impress others they love it.
5. Give them what they want
Leading on from that, a good tip is to find out what they’re into. The son of a friend of mine is into cars, so he’ll devour anything to do with that subject. Sometimes we can get into thinking we need to steer kids in a certain direction and away from certain types of material. This is fair enough but if you want your young man to master and enjoy reading it’s easier to do when he’s genuinely interested. If a child is struggling with reading, coping with that and a subject he finds boring is a sure way to put him off reading for life.
I know many parents aren’t keen on comics. But let him indulge his passion. It’ll will make it easier to tackle less interesting but potentially more beneficial subject matter later on. Personally I think comics are beneficial and so does the British Library. Their Comics Unmasked exhibition runs until 19 August 2014
6. Add a little magic.
I do a couple of magic tricks during my storytelling sessions. I can only think of one instance where during the Q&A someone didn’t ask me how I do them. I always say I get them from books and that they should get hold of one. This goes back to the 'boys like showing off knowledge thing’. I’m surprised that school libraries don’t stock more of them. I know one of my local libraries does, and it’s hardly ever on the shelf.
7. Get them into telling stories.
Storytelling is fun and it brings people together. Back to tip 1. When you tell a story get your young man to tell you one. It could be the episode of Horrid Henry he saw earlier, the book you gave him last week or even the story you just told him. That way you can gauge just how well he understood it. Just get him into the habit of digesting and sharing stories.
If only one of those tips work for you then I’m happy. If they all work then I know you’ll be happy.
Before I go. Chances are it’s a young girl in your life that’s a reluctant reader. If so I’m sure some, if not all of these tips will work just as well on her. Give it a go and let me know how you get on.