I visited a primary school once to run a poetry workshop with a year 5 class. The class was boy heavy: twenty in a class (out of 30 pupils), but they all read outside school for pleasure. Every single one of them had a book on their desk which they were enjoying reading and wanted to talk about. Their teacher has to be applauded because I am sure that it was her attitude to reading that inspired them. She talked to them about current books, doing projects on books that were newly published, not ones that had been yellowing on the bookshelf for years. Sometimes that is all that it takes to get boys reading i.e. an inspirational figure who passes on their passion for reading to the child…. and that someone can easily be you!
I often meet parents who despair about getting their children (not always boys) reading. Not only do I have three boys of my own but I have been working with children at The Story Room for five years now and have seen the wonders that reading can do for children. So, speaking from experience…. it is not easy to get a reluctant reader to pick up a book but it is a battle worth fighting.
Here are some tips that will hopefully help you to get your child reading:
If your son is still young enough to enjoy being read to (and I would say this could happen until they are in secondary school), then read to him. Do this every night, if you can. Go to the library together and choose a pile of books. Ask him to keep an open mind. Choose from different genres: Science Fiction, Historical Fiction, Horror e.t.c. and from books for different reading abilities. Try them out. You may not get past the first page of some of them and that is fair enough. There are many books that I don’t read past the first page of. But there may just be one or two that you manage to read to him to the end. Once you have found an author or genre that your son enjoys then borrow more books that you now know will appeal to him and maybe, just maybe he may start to read them on his own. But until such time, keep reading away. You will enjoy it too.
If you are not already a member of a library, join your local library, not only for a plentiful supply of new books but also because our local libraries have lots of events for young children, especially during the holidays; keeping them involved in books, outside of term time. Speak to librarians about books – they are more than happy to help.
Audio books are a fantastic way to introduce children to literature. You can choose books that are above your child’s reading level but within their comprehension level. Books on CD are expensive to buy but they are often for sale in second hand shops and there are book CDs available for loan in libraries.
I recently listened to Frank Cottrell’s Boyce’s ‘The Unforgotten Coat’ and the actress who read it really brought it to life with her Liverpudlian accent, a much better job than I would have done. Audio books are perfect for any length of car journey.
Sadly some children do not respond to any amount of books being bought for them or read to them at home. Try your local library for book clubs and reading groups or ask at their primary school if there is one running there. Sometimes outside influences are more powerful. I have been running book clubs at The Story Room for years. I once had a book club that had nine boys in it. It was not intended to be a book club for boys but that is how it ended up, weirdly. One mum said it has worked for her son because her son has a ‘competitive nature’, so as they are all reading the same book they would ask each other which part of the story they were up to and it encouraged her son to read more.
Gadgets get in the way of reading for many boys. Once a month have a gadget free weekend. Let your child get bored and discover the books on their shelves that are there waiting to be opened. Or take them out to buy/borrow a book. Independent book stores are a fantastic source of advice on children’s books and Waterstones are great at pointing you in the right direction.
Let them choose what they want to read, without being too prescriptive. You know yourself that choosing books is a very personal, what appeals to your friends may not appeal to you. They may make mistakes and choose books that disappoint them but be patient, they will get there in the end.
How can The Story Room help?
The Story Room runs creative writing workshops, book clubs, and writing groups and in all of these we talk about books that we are reading and introduce children to new literature. There are book clubs were your child reads one book a month or our Wild About Books club that gives them more time with the book, getting to know the characters etc. Many children are reluctant readers when they attend our creative writing workshops and we are over the moon when we hear reports that they have started reading for pleasure. We also run author workshops that are hugely successful in getting children reading.
Keep any eye on the website for reading lists – as that is something we will be posting next.
If you have any tips that you would like to share with us, then please send us an email! Or if you would like any further help on this subject, please feel free to contact us by email: firstname.lastname@example.org