Getting Boys to Read

Today I stumbled upon a great article from The Wall Street Journal called How to Raise Boys That Read.

It is written by Thomas Spence who is the president of Spence Publishing Company in Dallas. He has six sons and has plenty of experience with boys and reading. He discusses the rapid decline over the last twenty years of the education of boys in this country particularly in the area of literacy.

The literacy rates of girls has been going up and has strongly surpassed that of the nation's boys. He makes a very interesting comparison. Not too long ago the elite schools and universities were often reserved mostly for males whereas now most boys are deemed unfit for the classroom.

What a difference that is!!

The agreement among the professionals is that the reason behind the big drop in literacy for boys is that boys do not read enough. They simply are not getting enough practice and are not building up the skills that they need to succeed.

Some professionals believe that boys simply become bored with typical literature and that is why they do not read. So to combat this there has been a recent movement to meet the boys where they are and produce books about bodily functions and all things gross. Some professionals even have "gross-out parties" just to get them reading.

The emphasis is not on what is being read but that something is being read at all.

There are many book publishers and authors who are more than happy to provide the gross books for young boys to read. The Captain Underpants and The Butt Books series are best sellers for boys.

But the author argues that education ought to be what it once was, not only giving facts but also teaching the "formation of manners and taste". A great point! I can only imagine what reading The Butt Books is teaching young boys in their school libraries.

He also points out that if you simply keep meeting boys where they are, rather than challenging them to grow and try new things, the boys will not go very far. They certainly won't be encouraged to grow into men who will make good fathers, husbands and professionals. He believes that we are raising a generation of barbarians.

His experience with his six sons is that grossology is not needed to keep a boy's interest in a book. He also discusses that he hasn't ever needed to bribe his sons with video games to get them to read as so many parents are admitting to doing these days.

Which leads to his point that the decline in boy's reading and literacy has gone down since the video games and other forms of electronic entertainment. He suggests that the competition between electronics and academics has more to do with the decline of boys literacy than the potty humor. He even has a scientific study to back up this idea, that the boys in the study who spent more time playing video games than reading had a dramatic decline in academic performance.

His suggestion is to remove the competition of the video games and watch the boys begin to read again.

I personally couldn't agree more, remember my recent post about taking a day to be free of the TV? I've been cutting back on his TV watching and it's been amazing to watch his imagination soar. He has been drawing better and playing with much more gusto. It's been wonderful to watch!

He's not at the point of reading just yet - but he already knows what most of the sounds are for the letters! He picked it up really fast! He also loves having stories read to him which is a strong foundation to reading later on so I will continue to read to him and find more times throughout the day to read. I want to far surpass the recommended 20 minutes a day.

Oh and I can't leave out the last two sentences in the article: "I offer a final piece of evidence that is perhaps unanswerable: There is no literacy gap between home-schooled boys and girls. How many of these families, do you suppose, have thrown grossology parties?"

What are your thoughts??


Heather said...

One of the things that stood out to me most was parents using video games as a way to entice boys to read. Really, if they would just cut-off the video games, they would have much better results.

I was just telling my grandfather about this article last week. He was shocked and then proceeded to share fond memories of his first chapter book reading experience (Call of the Wild).

As a mother of young boys who LOVES reading, I have noticed that most of the books I've found have girls as the central character instead of boys. I sometimes wonder if this side of 'feminism' is having an adverse affect on the boys...

Anonymous said...

I agree wholeheartedly! I have no plans to allow my children access to video games, simply because I don't see the need for it. I hope I can encourage them to love reading as much as I do - if we could read for a solid hour every afternoon (aloud or quietly), I'd be thrilled with that!

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