A lot of boys don’t read. And when they do read, they don’t like it. However, this should be a skill that every single one of us is keen to foster.
Reading is one of the most accessible and affordable arts activities, and its benefits are well documented – OECD research shows that reading for enjoyment is the single most important indicator of a child’s future success. It’s even a more powerful factor in life achievement than a socio-economic background.
As I recite again to my English classes the importance of reading, I shoulder the eye-rolls and deep sighs. But I’m not giving up on the boys and reading. Here are nine reasons why:
1. Reading Stimulates the Brain
Keeping the brain active and engaged prevents it from losing its power. The brain operates like a muscle – exercising it keeps it healthy and helps sharpen its logical ability.
2. Reading Enhances Knowledge
Everything added to your mind creates neural connections to pieces of information already stored there. It’s like a net with an increasing number of threads being added to it. The more neural connections, the stronger the net.
3. Reading Builds Confidence
A broad vocabulary is empowering, but a vocabulary won’t grow if it isn’t fed. Reading exposes you to words in a range of contexts, allowing you to express yourself clearly and choose the right word for the right situation. An articulate person is often confident as they have the capacity to present their views in a clear, compelling and convincing fashion.
4. Reading Aids Communication
The pen may have been replaced by the keyboard, but the written word remains the dominant form of communication in most industries. If you read regularly, you are more likely to master writing, and writers who have developed their own style will stand apart from those who haven’t.
5. Reading Sharpens Problem-Solving Skills
Most narratives present an issue or complication. Reading presents you with a host of tricky scenarios and then explores solutions. People who read often find themselves vicariously involved in a range of escalating problems and challenges; through the protagonist you overcome obstacles, and by doing so expands your repertoire of strategies to deal with issues in his own life.
6. Reading Helps You to Focus
You have many things competing for your attention, and many of you consume media in a perpetually-distracted state. Evidence suggests that many adolescents struggle when met with a task that requires patience, persistence and long-term focus. Reading helps you to focus on one single task for a protracted period of time.
7. Reading and Creativity go Hand-in-Hand
The industry needs people who can design and articulate new ideas. Creative people. We need producers of content, not consumers. If we rely upon a few Hollywood producers to illustrate what Smaug looks like, to define Katniss Everdeen’s personality, or to provide insights into Jay Gatsby’s life, we are giving ourselves over to a habit of dependency that reduces creative impulses. In that situation, everybody loses.
8. Reading Helps Reduce Stress
Hectic lifestyles are often accompanied by heightened levels of stress and anxiety. Books allow us to spend time in realms free of the things that worry him. A good book can provide relief – an escape from daily demands and duties.
9. Reading is Fun!
Many students see reading as a chore. But given the right book and the right context, reading can be something you actually enjoy. The trick is experiencing enough reading to discover this.
We have an amazing resource in the school library, supported by Mrs Garry and her brilliant team of librarians. Take advantage of it and get into a great book. If you do not know where to start, ask your teachers (any of them), talk to Mrs Garry, read the reviews of your peers.
What can parents do to encourage reading?
Be a Reading Role Model
The most important thing is to value reading yourself. Fill your home with books. Reading in front of your son is the single most effective way to get your son to read.
Look for Opportunities for Shared Reading Experiences
Shared experiences of books can lead to authentic and memorable conversations. Heading off on holidays? Using books and articles, plan activities together – reading that is purposeful really resonates with boys. Or take a book of chilling campfire tales as evening entertainment.
Limit Technology, but don’t Demonise it
Many cite video games as the major obstacle to reading, but the two activities can co-exist. Agree upon how long a gaming session should be and stick to it. Boundaries work well for boys, as long as you co-create them to give your son a sense of control.
Consider Short Stories
Short stories work beautifully for boys as they give them a defined experience that can be completed in a relatively short space of time.
Swap Print for Audio
If your son is still resistant to print, try getting him to listen to a book instead. In addition to paid services such as Audible, audio texts can be accessed through council and school libraries.
Take it a Page at a Time
Don’t expect your son to turn into a bookworm overnight. Set realistic and achievable expectations that aren’t going to turn books into a battleground.