Today I'm taking a little break from talking about nutrition and instead focusing on another topic I'm passionate about...children's literacy. Prior to having children I was a high school history teacher and during the summer months I worked as a reading specialist with ESL (English as a Second Language) students. Needless to say, I understand the value of reading and hoped beyond all hope that someday I would have kids that loved reading just as much as I do. When I discovered I was pregnant I started what has become a mega collection of children's books. Before our kids were even in school we had bookshelves lined with board books, picture books, chapter books, old book series, new book series...all waiting ever-so-patiently for our boys to dive into. Both my husband and I spent countless hours with our kids reading with the hopes that would help develop an interest in reading.
All of our effort and preparation thus far seems to have helped somewhat. Both of our boys do love books and seem to have a genuine interest in reading. When our boys started school I was hopeful that their interest in books would continue and that they would both easily transition from one reading level to the next. They certainly have progressed, but at times I'll admit that it's a bit of a struggle. As part of our school's reading initiative our boys are required to read a certain number of minutes each and every day to help achieve a monthly goal of 400 minutes. That seemed easy enough when we started, but with our oldest son now in 3rd grade and involved in after school activities and sports it was getting harder and harder for him to meet the daily requirement. Thus began a book battle of sorts. My son was moaning and groaning about reading. Often saying he was too tired to read and he would do it later. When he finally did find time to sit down and read I would walk by and see him sitting with a book in hand and a blank stare on his face...obviously not engaged in what he was reading. All kinds of bells and whistles were going off in my head as I feared we were setting him up to despise reading which is the last thing I wanted!
I went on-line to do some research on this topic and quickly realized I was not alone. Evidently this book battle is something a lot of parents of boys deal with...what a relief that was to read. In fact, The U.S. Department of Education reading tests for the last 30 years show boys scoring worse than girls in every age group, every year. So I made a list of resources, did a fair amount of reading on the topic, and developed a new strategy. It's been working so well that I felt compelled to share it with you here in case there is another parent out there struggling with the same thing.
Pam Allyn, author of "Pam Allyn's Best Books for Boys" said, "Tension between parent and child is the single most deadly bullet. Be a team player with your child on this reading journey. Do not be critical or judgmental about what the child reads. If they love comics and cereal boxes, riddles and video game manuals, celebrate and affirm their choices. The home should be a sanctuary for reading."
What I took away from that is that I needed to give some ownership to my son in what he was reading. The 2010 Kids and Family Reading Report sponsored by Scholastic reports that only 39 percent of boys say reading books for fun is extremely or very important versus 62 percent of girls. Reading this statistic made me realize that what I think would be "fun reading" doesn't mean my son would feel the same. So I took my son to the book store and let him pick out a few book on his own with ZERO guidance from me. When it was time to check out I noticed that every book he selected was a non-fiction/fact book of some kind. Interesting!! Come to find out that a recent study shows that given the opportunity 80% of elementary-aged boys will pick out a non-fiction book from a library over fiction. Most of what we had in our home library up until that point were fiction books!
Now we have an abundance of non-fiction books including fact books, joke books, biographies about famous athletes, Presidents, historical figures, etc... Right now, my oldest son is drawn to Question/Answer type books which we have started referring to as "Why" books. I used to have to block out time in our day for him to read and every other minute he was asking if his reading time was up. Now I find my son reading at the breakfast table, in his room, in the car...you name it. I think he loves that he can absorb a lot of factual information about topics he's interested in relatively quickly. It's not to say he doesn't love chapter books. In fact, I think he enjoys chapter books more now than ever before because he's not being forced to read them. One little tip that has worked well for us with chapter books is to read the first chapter to our son. This gets him engaged and interested in the story and then he's eager to finish the book.
If you're interested in reading more on this topic you might visit the following sites:
2) Guys Read
Today's "WHY?" themed lunch was inspired by one of my son's favorite books of the moment "Time's Big Book of Why". This is a fun, fact-filled book perfect for curious readers! I've also started adding some of my boys' favorite books to the This Lunch Rox Amazon Store...I'll continue to add books as we go.