GETTING BOYS TO READ — NOT AS HARD AS YOU MIGHT THINK

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About ten years ago I wrote a short book called GETTING BOYS TO READ.  I filled it with a number of suggestions to get your reluctant reader child, particularly if that child was boy, to pick up some reading material and, without realizing it, practice reading. My motivation for writing the book was that a poor reader was at a tremendous disadvantage not only in school, but in finding their way to success as an adult. And my premise was that it did not matter what the child read—instructions for playing a video game, an advertisement for a Harley Davidson motorcycle, or a comic book was just as valuable( and maybe more so than a piece of fine literature such as War and Peace or Moby Dick).  The point was to practice reading—practice makes for proficiency exactly the way shooting thousands of baskets, or pounding out endless piano scales makes for expert s in those prospective fields.

 I proposed that if you could not pry your teenager away from the TV then sign up for close captioning and disable the sound on the TV.

Some of the strategies I suggested may not apply today. For instance, I proposed that if you could not pry your teenager away from the TV then sign up for close captioning and disable the sound on the TV.  If your boy(or girl) wants to watch TV then they will have to read as well.  I suspect  that in this new digital age the TV deprived child will simply turn to their tablet or phone and do a run-around their parents best intentions.

Years ago I was in the audience to hear a panel of children explain how they selected the reading material they consumed. One girl said she read what interested her and defied her mother’s best intentions to shove fine literature “down her eyes”.

I had a mother like that, she was a librarian and was always bringing home books she loved, and thought that naturally I would too.  And sometimes she was right. Treasure Island is still one of my favorite books, but for the most part I read what interested me. That included two newspapers  everyday, Mad Magazine, assorted comic books and anything that had to do with the weird and strange in a world I thought could use a little more excitement than my everyday life in suburbia.

What did I get out of picking out what interested me most?  One giant thing: The ability to read effortlessly.  I remember the years my son was mastering the saxophone.  Every so often he’d get to a place where he’d be ready to give up because the next step just seemed too hard. But by persevering he got over the hump and found waiting on the other side the ability to really have fun playing the instrument. After that, practice was fun and he soon became so proficient he began winning awards and even spent a year at the top music college in the country.  So, I encourage any parent who wants to turn their child from a reluctant to an enthusiastic reader to make sure he or she has access to material that interests them.  Start by getting them subscriptions to magazines in their field of interest—you will find there is pretty much something for everyone. One of my favorites that I gave as gifts to friends kids was to a magazine called Fortean Times. It is full of weird and strange—and true stuff.  Look it up online.

Attached is a pdf of my Getting Boys to Read – it is also will be helpful to girls—as I can’t emphasize enough that reading takes practice and if you get your children reading for pleasure they will soon become proficient readers  and, trust me, they will thank you for it.  And no doubt  you will thank yourself as well for nurturing a literate child equipped for success in this increasingly competitive and complicated world.

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