Tips to encourage boys to read

A former school teacher and literacy lead is to launch a new book series, Baller Boys, with the first book out in May 2020, bringing 20 years of inner-city primary school education experience to help six to nine year old reluctant readers. And she’s writing specifically with the boys she’s taught over the decades in mind.

Reading and literacy is crucial for educational attainment and social progression, yet many boys still struggle. The ROGO Index 2018*  found that, despite the gender gap in children’s reading enjoyment narrowing in recent years, girls still outperform boys in all areas of reading in England at the age of 11: reading enjoyment (79.4% vs 70.4%), daily reading levels (57% vs 44.7%) and reading skills (89.1% vs 83.2%).

One of Venessa’s proudest career achievements was raising the standards of reading, literary engagement and attainment across her London school with a focus of engaging boys and reluctant readers. Venessa researched and identified what students would respond best to in terms of content, characters and setting. She soon realised that what the boys wanted to read about was not readily available, so took the challenge upon herself to inspire and encourage more young people – boys in particular – to read.

Venessa is in expert on raising reading standards. Here are her top tips for parents and teachers to help them engage with reluctant readers:

  • Author visits

Author visits are the ideal opportunity to help raise the profile of reading in any school. Teachers would relish the chance to have a real-life author visit their school and inspire their pupils to both read for pleasure and to ignite their imagination for creative writing.

  • Know why

In terms of engaging reluctant readers, it is first essential to identify why the reader is reluctant. This usually stems from one of two main reasons. The first, the pupil struggles with reading, if this is the case then the problem must be addressed. The second, the pupil has not yet found any books with engaging content, then consider reading my top tips below for some ideas for engaging reluctant readers.

  • Keep it fun

Make the reading experience enjoyable! Help them to choose books that are colourful and vibrant (depending on age) and that they can and want to read.

  • Book chat

Share your own enthusiasm for books well before you introduce them to the reader. For example, tell children about some of the books they will read over the term, give them a big dollop of flavour about what happens, talk animatedly about the characters, the setting; get them excited about them. When ready to read the book, wrap it up and do a book reveal.

  • Keep it regular

Regular reading ten to thirty minutes daily at home makes such a difference. It could be just before bedtime, or first thing in the morning, whenever suits your homelife. Family reading time, read the same book together, individual reading, taking it in turns to read a section etc. Reading is a great opportunity to get cosy and discuss books. Routine becomes a habit.

  • Hobbies and interests

Help them to find books that interest them, if they have a hobby or engage in a sport help them to find books related to their interests. If they’re into football you’ll find fiction books about football, non-fiction books teaching them football skills, footballers’ biographies etc.

  • Representation

Children like to see characters that mirror themselves and their interests. They like to read stories that reflect their own situations and experiences, for example books that contain children of colour, non-traditional families, etc.

  • Listening to books is still reading

Audio books engage children in a way reading themselves cannot. Audio books are often accompanied by music and sound effects, which add to the experience. They also support vocabulary, help with the understanding of words and their meaning, and model how stories can be structured. Some audio books also come with the paperback book so children can read along.

  • Technology and gadgets

eReaders and tablets are a good use of technology to support reading. Children see gadgets as fun so why not encourage them to read in a fun way?

  • Library visits

Libraries are great for exposing children to lots of different books, giving them a real choice. They often don’t know what they like, or are interested in, until they see or hear about them.

  • Reading for a purpose

Let them read recipes then bake the cookies. Read the rules then play the game. Read instructions then make or build the Lego house etc.

  • Film to book

Let children watch a movie then read the book. This won’t spoil the fun but could help them to understand the flow of the story and decode key vocabulary.

  • Series

Hook them into a book series, so they want to find out more and therefore keep reading.

  • Role model readers

Invite visitors to read with or to your children. Male role models are great for boys; Dad, football coach, grandfather. Boys are more often encouraged to read by mum, female teachers etc, so can identify reading as a female activity.

Following just one or many of Venessa’s tips can help boys increase their reading skills and enjoy the process much more, resulting in happy readers for life.

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