Tuesday 3 July 2012

Gender reading gap grows, but parents can help encourage boys to enjoy books

Interesting reading for parents of boys. Both of the girls are total bookworms and Pierre loves "reading" too so I'm hoping this continues.


A report from parliament and charity the National Literacy Trust has found many boys falling behind in reading, with boys being less likely to be given books as presents than girls and more likely to prefer watching TV than girls. The report states however that parents can make a big difference by encouraging boys to read. The National Literacy Trust’s Words for Life campaign has put together some tips for parents to help boys to engage with and enjoy reading:
1. Make reading active
Boys thrive on activity, so incorporate this into reading time.  Get your sons to “act out” what they have read, and pretend to be book characters – you can join in too!
2. Provide male reading role models
Male role models are really important. Fathers, grandfathers, uncles and older brothers can all play their part by letting younger boys see them reading.  It doesn’t matter if it’s the newspaper, a book or a recipe. In copying reading behaviour boys will gain confidence and get to be great readers too.
3. It doesn’t have to be just books
Reading is reading, no matter what it is. Reading doesn’t have to mean just sitting down with a book; words are everywhere. Use road signs, posters, television guides and shopping lists to get your boys reading. Also magazines and comics are a great way to encourage boys to read as they tend to be visual learners
4. Give lots of praise
Boys thrive on praise and will love getting attention for positive behaviours!  When he is reading well, give him encouragement and be specific rather than general about the praise you are giving. If a boy can understand exactly what he has done to earn the praise he will learn more quickly. 

5. Use an interest as a hook
If there is a hobby or sport your son likes, find relevant fictional or non-fictional books that will appeal to him. Whether your boy likes soldiers, nature, aeroplanes, pirates or motorbikes, go to the library together and look for books on the subject. Many boys enjoy football and you can see our recommended football books here. [http://www.wordsforlife.org.uk/top-10-football-books
6. Build regular reading time into the day
Set aside a regular time to read with boys and listen to them reading.  Ask younger boys to point out things in the pictures.  Don’t stop reading with boys once they can read themselves, as boys can switch off from reading once they know the basics. 
7. Experiment with genres
Encourage boys to try out a variety of books and authors to see what suits their taste - fast-paced adventure, horror and science-fiction are often popular, as are fact-based books such as the Guinness Book of Records.
The Boys’ Reading Commission findings reveal that 3 out of 4 (76%) UK schools are concerned about boys’ underachievement in reading. Last year an estimated 60,000 boys failed to reach the expected level in reading at age 11.
The Boys Reading Commission’s report compiled by the National Literacy Trust reveals the “reading gender gap” is widening and says action needs to be taken in homes, schools and communities. The Commission has found that the reading gender gap begins in the home, with parents supporting boys very differently from girls. New National Literacy Trust research published in the report found that:
  • Boys are more likely than girls to believe that someone who reads is boring (18% vs. 12.7%) and a geek (22.3% vs. 18.5%)
  • More boys than girls can’t find anything to read that interests them (30% vs 23%)
  • Boys are less likely to be given books as presents than girls (79.7% vs 85.3%)
  • Boys are more likely than girls to say they prefer watching TV to reading (62% vs 45%)
The Commission has made a series of recommendations to Government including:
  • A toolkit of effective practice to show schools how to support boys’ reading
  • School support for reading for enjoyment not just the mechanics of reading
  • Boys to have weekly access to male role models that encourage reading
  • Family initiatives should help parents, especially fathers, to support literacy
  • Library support for boys least likely to be supported in their reading at home
On publication of the report Director of the National Literacy Trust, Jonathan Douglas commented:
“Boys’ underachievement in reading is not inevitable. Unless we address it too many boys will struggle at school and face inequalities throughout life. The Commission’s report provides rounded evidence on the best way to address this issue and represents a step-change in ensuring all boys reach their full potential.”
Schools Minister Nick Gibb responded to the report:
" Reading for pleasure is key to boosting a young person's life chances. As a Government, improving reading standards in schools is central to all our education reforms. Through phonics we are ensuring all children learn the mechanics of reading early in their school career. Helping children to develop a love of reading and a habit of reading for pleasure every day is key to ensuring we have well educated and literate young people by the time they leave school."
And children’s author, Michael Morpurgo who was involved in the group that developed the Boys’ Reading Commission said:

The problem is cultural and deep-seated, therefore unlikely to be resolved quickly. The effort to turn things round has to be multi-faceted and has to be sustained over decades.”
The National Literacy Trust has compiled a list of recommended reads for boys. Parents can visit the Words for Life website to download it – www.wordsforlife.org.uk/boys

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  1. I think reading to your young child,before bedtime, is a big influence in your child getting to like reading and starting to read themselves.
    I don't have boys but, I agree, it's important to set an example and read yourself and get exciting books as presents from a very early age - with exciting pictures.

    1. Just having books at home helps too. I was shocked to read how many kids don't own a single book. We have hundreds ! They get worn out and ripped eventually, especially with Pierre, but it means he loves "reading" (the touchy-feely books, flap books, etc) which is the most important thing.

  2. My son has just adopted a little boy (BJ)aged 7 his reading age and speech are way behonf the other children in his class. So we are making an exra secial effort to help him catch up. I have purchased a wide range of books to try gain his interest, your advice above is fabulous and I will definatley pass this on to my son.

    1. Good luck, I'm sure he'll catch up in no time :)


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