Academics, politicians, teachers and parents around the country threw their hands up in horror when the latest survey from the Literacy Trust was released recently. It showed that boys are significantly worse than girls at reading in national testing, and that an increasing number of boys are being switched off reading completely, preferring instead to kick a football around in the park with their mates or zap aliens on their Xbox. It seems to be a generally accepted fact that reading is a “good thing” and doing anything else is “bad”, but is this really the case?
It’s impossible to argue that basic literacy is not an essential life skill. We all need to read all of the time, and by the time they leave primary school all children should be able to master the basics and be able to read the newspaper, make sense of timetables and decipher a restaurant menu. If teachers and parents aren’t giving them these skills, then they are most definitely failing. However, is it really important if a child who is doing OK with their literacy in school prefers to play on a games console or go swimming rather than sit down with a book?
I firmly believe that we fall into two distinct camps, those of us who like to read and those of us who do not. Some of us hate dancing, or being out in the sun, or pizza, and this is not considered in any way a fault, but if you or your child says that you don’t like reading, the criticism soon starts to pile up. The very worst thing you can do to a reluctant reader is force them to read more books, and this is exactly what we do in school. Everyone remembers the torture of having to read and analyse a set text in English lessons puts many off reading for life.
What’s Wrong with Comics?
There is also a huge amount of snobbery when it comes to what to read. If you are trying to encourage your child to read, does it really matter if they are reading an online blog by their favourite footballer, a comic or playing a game which needs reading to progess? I don’t really think it does and forcing them to sit down with Treasure Island or The Hobbit is just counter-productive. Many teachers also force the reading of fiction above anything else, where boys in particular may prefer a non-fiction book about dinosaurs, sport or science.
Know Your Child
If you have a child who is a reader then great, you just need to feed their addiction by supplying a variety of books and let them get on with it. More reluctant readers can have their interest sparked by an electronic reader such as a Kindle, and these make fantastic gifts for tween boys too. Take them to the library or a special event run by an author or publishing, and see if this sparks their interest in different sorts of books. Speak to other parents to see what their kids are reading and at the end of the day if your son is not showing an interest in reading, do not force the issue.
- License: Creative Commons image source
Morag Peers is a busy Mother of three and resident of Scotland.