Why boys don't read
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Reading resources for boys (and their parents)
Directed specifically toward boys, this site is the work of Jon Scieszka, the National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature. The site is described as a “web-based literacy program for boys.” It features titles from various guy-oriented categories, such as “At least one explosion” and “Boxers, Wrestlers and Ultimate Fighters.”
Teacher, librarian, and author Mike McQueen provides interviews with experts, a blog, and plenty of articles on ways to connect with boys through reading.
This site is run by an organization of parents, librarians, mentors, authors, booksellers, and others who are devoted to getting boys to read. The site includes plenty of title suggestions for all ages of boys. There is also a blog and ideas such as “reading tribes” for boys.
By Linda Jacobson
The siren song of the screen
Some parents and teachers blame video games for contributing to boys' lower achievement in reading and writing, and now there is some evidence to support that theory. A 2010 study by Robert Weis, a psychology professor at Denison University in Granville, OH, found a link between the use of video game systems and lower reading and writing scores. The research showed that video games were “displacing” other after-school activities that might have had more educational value.
Of course, video games aren't the only electronic entertainment vying for boys’ attention. Computers, phones, iPads, and other mobile devices all keep boys connected to games, videos, friends, and other distractions — everything but reading.
Many parents wonder if shutting off the screens would motivate boys to pick up a book instead. Weis’ advice to parents is to work toward creating some balance between reading and the activities boys consider more fun.
“I don't think there is much promise in blaming video games,” adds Wilhelm. “We have to find out why they are engaging to kids and then bridge from this to other activities that will also be rewarding for them.”
Teachers, he suggests, need to adopt a similar approach, and, for example, assign activities and projects related to the book the class is reading, instead of expecting them to enjoy sitting and talking about the book.
Wilhelm also points out that boys “experience video games as stories," and suggests that schools figure out ways to use the games as a resource to get them interested in narrative.
Teens like Sanjay Mahboobani not only find gaming more exciting than reading, they say it's more social, too. “Reading is more of an individual hobby,” he says, “and I like to be with a group of people rather than by myself.”
Approaching reading in different ways
Some ways to encourage boys to read:
• Set an example by being a reader. Jeffrey Wilhelm recommends that parents — especially dads — read a variety of different materials to convey the message that reading is a way to learn about all different aspects of the world.
• Don’t reject what boys are reading. If boys get a negative reaction every time they open a graphic novel or a book filled with gore or off-color humor, they'll stop opening books altogether. Expand your definition of reading. Magazines, blogs, websites, comic books, and other materials are often more interesting to boys than classic novels because they feature shorter chunks of text, which are more appealing to many boys.
• Take advantage of technology. Some boys are more interested in reading if they can use a Kindle or an iPad. Books made for these devices sometimes have interactive features and a boy might not be turned off by the length of the book if he can’t actually see the number of pages remaining. Some boys also prefer audiobooks.
• Make connections through reading. If a boy is interested in cars or sports, for example, look for articles and books on these subjects, and discuss them with him after he's read them.