Saturday, September 25, 2010

Raising boys who read

At the middle school back-to-school night the other night, Mike overheard a conversation between a middle school boy and his mom:

Mom: Did you hear what the teacher said? If you don't start reading by 7th grade, you will never become a reader.

Boy: But I hate to read!
According to this excellent article, "How to Raise Boys that Read (as Much as Girls Do): Not with Gross-out Books and Videogame Bribes...," boys score way below girls on reading proficiency tests. Boys do not read well because they do not read enough. Publishing houses and authors are trying to appeal more to boys by publishing books on gross and disgusting topics. Both Chris and Kieran went through the Captain Underpants phase...but moved on. Personally, I thought it was pretty harmless, but I might have minded more if he hadn't been reading higher-quality books as well.

I think in our case, family genes must have had some effect. Can you imagine being the child of two English major/writers and not liking to read? He or she would be the opposite of Matilda (in the Roald Dahl novel by that name), who adored reading but all her family wanted to do was watch TV. Since they were tiny tots, our boys have always loved stories. We indoctrinated them early.

One observation I did make when reading the article was that Chris reads less now that he has an iPod Touch. Fortunately, the iPod has kept him from watching as much wrestling (blech!), but his eyes seem to be drawn to the screen more easily than to the printed word. We've instituted a new rule in our house: no iPod Touch until he's done all of his homework (he's tried to convince us he can watch videos on his iPod while doing homework), practiced his drumming, and read for at least 30 minutes--and then he has 1 hour max per school day (he will be lucky if he has that much time left!). Yes, in a sense, we are rewarding him for reading by handing him his iPod. But he truly does like reading. In my mind, we are simply taking away a distraction.

Kieran's in that great age where we simply cannot read enough to him. His reading tastes are far beyond his abilities, though, so the area we need to improve with him is to have him read to us more often. If it were up to him, all of our reading time would be spent with us reading the Lemony Snicket series out loud (the latest craze for him)...and not reading easy readers!

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