Six things you can do to get boys reading more



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Boys typically read less frequently and perform worse on national and international reading assessments than girls.
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Margaret Kristin Merga, Curtin University

The OECD consistently finds girls perform significantly better than boys in reading. This gap can also be observed across the Australian NAPLAN reading data.

Research suggests reading more can improve literacy outcomes across a range of indicators. But girls typically read more frequently than boys, and have a more positive attitude toward reading.




Read more:
Research shows the importance of parents reading with children – even after children can read


Parents read more with their daughters. This sends a strong and early message that books are for girls, as well as equipping girls with a significant advantage. Recent research found even though boys read less frequently than girls, girls receive more encouragement to read from their parents.

So how can parents and educators help bridge the gap for boys’ literacy?

Stop telling boys they only like non-fiction

To improve boys’ literacy outcomes, parents and educators may look for ways to connect boys with reading. This had led to discussion about the importance of promoting so-called “boy-friendly” books that boys are supposedly “drawn to”, which are typically assumed to be non-fiction works, as it’s regularly contended that boys prefer to read non-fiction.

But this contention is not typically supported by recent quantitative research. For example, OECD and my own research suggests boys are more likely to choose to read fiction than non-fiction. Encouraging all boys to read non-fiction under the assumption this meets an imagined uniform preference can actually lead to negative outcomes.

You can model good behaviour for your child by reading for enjoyment in front of them.
from http://www.shutterstock.com

Firstly, the reading of fiction is more consistently associated with literacy benefit than non-fiction in areas such as verbal ability and reading performance. When we tell boys non-fiction books are for them, this may steer them away from a more beneficial text type. This is counterproductive if we’re doing so in order to improve their literacy.

Secondly, recent research suggests non-fiction readers tend to read less frequently than fiction readers. So, if we want to increase boys’ reading frequency, engaging them in fiction may be more effective.

We may also be encouraged to steer boys toward comic books. While children can benefit from exposure to diverse text types, the reading of comic books, e-mails and social networking posts, newspapers, magazines and text-messages is not associated with the same level of literacy benefit.




Read more:
Five tips to help you make the most of reading to your children


In addition, recent research supports the relationship between reading fiction and the development of pro-social characteristics such as empathy and perspective taking. So reading fiction can help students to meet the Personal and Social Capability in the Australian Curriculum, among other general capabilities. Instead of buying into stereotypes, we should aim to meet our children’s individual reading interests and encourage a reading diet that includes fiction.

Six strategies for connecting boys with books

Here are six strategies you can use to connect boys with books and increase their reading engagement:

  1. just as your interests and views are not identical to all those of the same age and gender, boys have diverse interests and tastes. These don’t necessarily stay static over time. To match them with reading material they’re really interested in, initiate regular discussions about reading for pleasure, in order to keep up with their interests

  2. schools should provide access to libraries during class time throughout the years of schooling. Girls may be more likely to visit a library in their free time than boys, and as children move through the years of schooling they may receive less access to libraries during class time, curtailing boys’ access to books. Access to books is essential to promote reading

  3. keep reading to and with boys for as long as possible, as many boys find it enjoyable and beneficial beyond the early years

  4. provide opportunities and expectations for silent reading at home and at school, despite competing demands on time

  5. keep paper books available. Boys who are daily readers are even less likely to choose to read on screens than girls. The assumption that boys prefer to read on screens is not supported by research

  6. promote reading as an enjoyable and acceptable pastime by being a great role model. Let your children or students see you read for pleasure.

Reading is for everyone.
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As a final comment, the OECD note:

Although girls have higher mean reading performance, enjoy reading more and are more aware of effective strategies to summarise information than boys, the differences within genders are far greater than those between the genders.

So, parents and educators seeking to support the literacy attainment of young people through increased reading engagement should focus on meeting the needs of all disengaged and struggling learners, regardless of gender.The Conversation

Margaret Kristin Merga, Senior Lecturer in Education, Curtin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Enjoyment of reading, not mechanics of reading, can improve literacy for boys



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Even when teachers are supporting specific learning difficulties (such as dyslexia), it’s important to expand boys’ repertoire of positive reading experiences.
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Laura Scholes, Queensland University of Technology

Year 3 reading outcomes of 2017 NAPLAN testing once again demonstrate a gender gap, with boys underachieving compared to girls. A focus on teaching for the test has not closed the gender gap and only reduced student motivation and well-being.

Girls outperform boys in Year 3 reading across all states and territories.
ACARA

Calls for a review of NAPLAN ten years on are timely. But as well as looking at how high-stakes testing is narrowing the curriculum and causing student stress, we need to consider the testing regime’s influence on boys’ attitudes towards reading.




Read more:
NAPLAN 2017: results have largely flat-lined, and patterns of inequality continue


Attitudes towards reading

Reports increasingly highlight how negative attitudes towards reading constrain experiences for some boys. In the United Kingdom, a National Literacy Trust survey of 21,000 children aged eight to 16 found boys were more likely than girls to believe someone who reads is boring and a geek.

This attitude is believed to be related to deep-seated cultural issues that lead many boys to believe reading is feminine and “uncool”. Reluctance to read then translates into less time reading and lower achievement.

There is now a call in the UK for schools to have a policy of promoting enjoyment of reading rather than just a focus on effective teaching of phonics skills.

We have known for a long time that positive attitudes towards reading influence boys’ engagement with reading. Engagement influences practice, resulting in the Matthew Effect as cumulative exposure to print accelerates development of reading processes and knowledge.

Attitudes towards reading are not innate; they are learned predispositions in response to favourable or unfavourable experiences. In this way, a boys’ attitude towards reading develops over time as the result of beliefs about reading and, importantly, specific reading experiences.

In Australia, the focus on NAPLAN has changed the landscape of teaching and literacy experiences for students.

As part of this change, didactic teaching of reading for NAPLAN can compound negative attitudes about the nature of reading at school. Reading is seen as a passive (feminine) endeavour associated with boring schoolwork (preparing for the test).

While teaching phonics is already embedded in good teaching practice, the introduction of the Year 1 phonics check will potentially further narrow the curriculum as teachers are pressured to teach for yet another test. This initiative could also impact on teaching practices for reading in the early years.




Read more:
Explainer: what is phonics and why is it important?


If we are interested in enhancing reading outcomes for underachieving boys, we need to foster positive attitudes towards reading that translate into practice. The change needs to be from a focus on teaching reading to helping boys become successful and satisfied readers.

Enjoyment correlates with NAPLAN outcomes

My recent survey of 320 Year 3 children from 14 schools in Queensland identified their self-reported enjoyment of story books, non-fiction books, magazines and comics, and self-reported reading frequency.

Students coloured in a box to reflect an emotive face on a Likert scale to indicate their level of enjoyment and their frequency of reading. Students’ Year 3 NAPLAN reading outcomes were also collected.

A Likert scale is a psychometric scale commonly used for research questionnaires to gain a rating.
Author provided, Author provided

Findings from the Pearson test of correlation between survey variables indicated correlation between higher student NAPLAN reading scores and higher levels of enjoyment for reading story books/non-fiction books and higher reading frequency. There was a statistically significant positive correlation between reading scores and reading frequency, and reading scores and reading enjoyment.

Even when teachers are supporting specific learning difficulties (such as dyslexia), it’s important to expand boys’ repertoire of positive reading experiences. This requires a shift from the exclusive teaching of the mechanics of reading to teaching practices that contextualise experiences and encourage enjoyment of reading.

Some strategies for success for boys (and girls):

Parent mentors can help engage boys in reading.
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  1. Expand school reading cultures. Directly challenge beliefs about reading being a feminine pursuit. Teachers can select and use texts that challenge what it means to be male and the power structures that exist in school and society.

  2. Focus on the arts. Include artists-in-residence schemes, poetry weeks, dance sessions run by professional dancers, and drama productions that allocate lead roles to disengaged boys. Boys often enjoy working with “readers’ theatre” scripts, which allow them to feel like active participants in a story.

  3. Leave reading choices up to students 50% of the time. Provide a wide range of texts to stimulate interest and build confidence through paired reading schemes and teacher decisions to give students space to talk about and reflect on what was enjoyable.

  4. Promote male mentoring. Include parent-mentors and vertical mentoring with older boys mentoring younger boys in the school.

  5. Let them talk! Boys who are reluctant readers need to have successful reading experiences. Use literature circles with mixed-ability grouping, providing boys with the support they need to focus on the “big ideas” in the story, as well as on the words and structure of the texts.

  6. Include variety. Use interactive classroom activities fit for purpose so that both short, specific focused activities and more sustained, ongoing activities are used, as and when appropriate.

  7. Risk-taking in teacher practice. Bring more creativity and variety. Expose students to new and novel reading experiences.

  8. Implement teaching practices that encourage discussion. Based on Philosophy for Children, enhance reading comprehension as students explore different answers, examine the strengths and weaknesses for each, and critically reflect on assumptions along the way.




Read more:
Research shows the importance of parents reading with children – even after children can read


The ConversationWhen the focus is on teaching for the test, direct instruction and an exclusive focus on phonics, there is a narrowing of curriculum and teaching practice. Strategies can be easily implemented in the classroom. We need to move from teaching reading for NAPLAN testing, to teaching boys to enjoy reading to ensure their success.

Laura Scholes, Research Fellow, Australian Research Council (DECRA), School of Early Childhood and Inclusive Education, Queensland University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Book Review: Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson


Treasure Island was the first major novel of Robert Louis Stevenson. It was first published in 1883 and has remained a much-loved book. First penned as a story for boys, it was as a young boy that I first came across Treasure Island. It was the first real book that I ever read – certainly of my own choice. If I remember correctly, the copy I had was a small book, not much bigger than my hand and illustrated throughout. The illustrations weren’t coloured as such, but I think I may have started to ‘colour them in’ as I read the story several times. The name of the ship, ‘Hispaniola,’ came back to me in one of my first compositions at school. In that early attempt at writing I wrote a story about piracy and a ship called the Hispaniola. I believe I was written into the story, along with several of my classmates, though the original composition has long since been lost and the
plot a thing of the past.

Treasure IslandNot until the last couple of days however, did I take up the novel once again and begin to read the story of Long John Silver and Jim Hawkins, and the journey to Treasure Island. It has been a long time now, since that first book I read and my taking it up again. It must be at the very least thirty years and then some by my reckoning. Remembering this book as the first I had really read, was the reasoning behind my picking it up again for another read.It is an easy read. It is not a long read. But it is an enjoyable read. If it is that then the author has achieved his goal in fiction I believe. To be sure there are many things that can be learned in reading a novel and many lessons that can be taught through a novel, but without enjoyment all else is lost. This is a short novel that can be enjoyed greatly.

I read this book by way of a Kindle, which shows that the future of Treasure Island lies assured into the digital future and beyond. I also own Treasure Island in traditional form and as part of a set of works, being the entire works of Robert Louis Stevenson. One day I hope to read more, if not all of this man’s printed contrinution to English literature and I look forward to doing so.

Treasure Island is the classic pirate story, coming fully equiped with the pirate talk which is so popular even to this day and the vivid description of a pirate adventure. The story is a great one that may well bring younger generations to read and pull them away from the Xbox and other gaming devices. It is a short read, with short chapters, which may be a useful tool in getting a young one to start reading – but it is the adventure of a life time for Jim Hawkins that will really draw them in and the promise of buried treasure.

If you have not read Treasure Island, pick up a copy and have a read. It is free in the Kindle Shop at the time of posting this review and well worth spending a couple of hours a day reading this classic – by the end of the week the story of Treasure Island will be completed and you will be the richer for having read it.

Buy this book at Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Treasure-Island-ebook/dp/B0084AZXKK/