I know that moment. The moment of frustration and potential arguments that arise when your son or boy has to read for school or nightly homework. It is a source of contention and eventually a fight. A lot of parents find themselves in this situation on a nightly basis. Typically, the parents cave and sign a nightly reading form, or the child lies and looks at the Sparknotes for their report. As a teacher, I saw this on a regular basis.
First, you need to know that you are not alone and that it is possible for you and your son to overcome this struggle. Understand that your child is growing and does not have a limited understanding or a fixed capacity for growth, growth mindset needs to be introduced. The following are seven ways to encourage reluctant boy readers and what we do in our home.
Lead by Example
Families or parents that read, generally have kids that read. My father read a lot, he was regularly reading in his library and could be found there most of the time he was home (see below). He would read the newspaper daily and always had a stack of books next to his Lazyboy. I’m not saying that you have to sell your soul to literature and reading, but you’re going to have to pick up a book and show your kids that it is important to you. Realistically, the best option would be to read a/the book with your child on a daily basis. Reading with your allows you to teach them how to read on multiple levels (More on this in another post).
Talk about what You/They read
When you read together, you will know what is happening in the book/magazine. You don’t need to put together a multiple choice test and quiz them on what they read, (this kills the enjoyment of reading and teachers should stop doing it) but you need to be aware of what is going on. For example, in the early stages of Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, Percy encounters a bully in Nancy Bobofit. As a parent, I may ask my son, “Do you know anybody like that?” or “What would you do if that happened to one of your friends?” or other questions that require higher order thinking skills. It’s great to the basics, but books, like Ogres, have multiple layers.
Let Them Choose Their Books
The choice is huge. We allow our boys to read what they want. We monitor the frequency of comic books and “picture” books like Bone and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but we pretty much allow them to pick the books they read. Allowing choice means that you need to give them a choice, which means you need to give them access to as many books as possible. The two biggest ways are through the Public Library and purchasing books. One of our boys swims twice a week, and we try to stop by the city library while he is at swimming practice. If library trips are regularly planned, kids will develop a habit of finishing current books, and also think of new books that they want to check out. There are Multiple places to buy books: Online, Library Overstocks, local book shops, and the local thrift store are a few places to purchase them. A lot of communities have pop-up book boxes or mini book shares throughout the neighborhood. Just google Neighborhood Book Boxes in your area, if you don’t have one, maybe you could build one.
Fill Your Home With Books
We have books or magazines in almost every room of our house. I didn’t show the magazine racks on the back of the bathroom walls, but those are usually filled with Ranger Rick magazine, Nat Geo for Kids, and other science books.
We rotate through the books about once a year, we clean them out, box them up, and bring out another box from storage. This helps the books stay fresh in our kid’s minds but allows us to keep the books so that all of our kids can read them.
Monitor Their Screen Time
You will have to figure out what this looks like in your house, but we limit each child to one hour a week of free computer/video game time. They do homework on a laptop but that time does not count towards free screen time. We monitor their video game time, and usually, I will sit down and play with them. We look forward to this time as a family and play four players games so everyone can get involved. Once in a while my wife will jump in and play, the boys get super excited when they can kill mom in a game of SmashBros or MarioCart.
Let them practice/play what they are reading
This suggestion deals with informational/nonfiction text and is vital to helping reluctant readers. When our kids read about a new Lego design or how circuitry works we try and let them experiment, build, or work on the topic that they read. This help them make connections between what they are reading and how the real world works. This also works with literature. They start to see archetypes throughout novels and stories. They begin to understand concepts like “The Heroes Journey”, or the “AntiHero” and other literary terms and patterns. Knowing these literary devices and terms helps kids make connections throughout the rest of their lives.
Keep a Growth Mindset
You are the adult, well at least you should be, hopefully. We all have to patient with struggling readers, especially our older kids. We know how important reading is and the many doors that it opens. Try not to be punitive or get angry or frustrated with your child’s progress. Celebrate little achievements and continue to encourage them. I have found that it is usually one book or one teacher that starts the fire in a student. This can happen at any time. I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions or and other ideas that work for you and your kids.