Monday, 16 July 2012

Get More Children Reading: A 15-point Action Plan:

In recent years I have been working with parents and children to improve reading skills. There is strong evidence that boys' reading skills are increasingly falling behind those of girls, and that boys come back to school after the summer holidays with poor reading skills.

These are the questions that I asked in this blog:

How can we guide and support the enjoyment in reading and help to improve skills?

How can we link reading with creativity, community, and interactivity?

The results. Here are 15 motivational tips (with an emphasis on reading for boys):

1. Any reading is good reading. 

Boys often re-read books that they have enjoyed. But don't just stick to fiction; there are great factual illustrated books, top tips for boys, motor car books, jokebooks, sports annuals, magazines and graphic novels. Don't just stick to the classic fiction that adults say they enjoyed reading in their childhood.

2. Lead by example 

Children copy those around them. If a boy sees his brother, dad, or uncle reading, then he will be more likely to identify reading with positive male role models. Demonstrate that reading is a normal human activity. Try newspapers, car manuals, TV guides, celebrity books, survival guides ...

3. Install bookshelves.

Having a place to keep your books safe shows that they are a valued resource and part of the living furniture of the house.

4. Start to use the local library.

We hear a lot about cuts to library services but the truth is that many children's libraries are an excellent resource. Take time to explore and select books.

5. Listen to recommendations. 

Asks teachers, librarians and bookshop staff for recommendations. Explain what kind of books you like. Sometimes it is better to build on existing tastes rather than developing new ones.

6. Boys like gadgets!

So I'm not excluding online reading, e-readers and kindle. Let children research their reading styles and preferences.

7. Friendly, polite conversation, and open questions build confidence. 

Children like to talk about what they read and why they liked something. Often they will be delighted to tell you the full story in their own words. Ask them about their favourite moment in a book! This process is the beginning of critical reading and creative insight. Talking about reading builds the activity into the fabric of school and community life.

8. Build creatively on what you read. 

Make your own picture books and story continuations (prequels and sequels) based on favourite books. Or try alternative endings. Make a short film or radio broadcast about your favourite reading.

9. Set an agreed reading time.

This approach involves trial and error. Reading by discipline misses the point that reading ideally is self-motivated. However, reading may be a good wind-down evening or night-time activity - half an hour at the end of the day is often enough. It does not have to be every day.

10. A sense of progress. 

Some children work well with a target and a bar chart of their daily reading progress. Try setting a token reward for boys who get past page 100. (Research shows that many children give up before then.)

11. Collaborative reading. 

Children love reading and being read to. It helps if you both try out funny voices or read the characters with facial expressions. Children's reading groups and clubs are also an excellent way to share reading experiences. Why not set one up in your local area? Also look out for reading activities at your local school or library.

12. Multiple languages.

Some books are available in parallel translations which helps if English is not your first language.

13. Encourage your child to read with other children. 

There is not reason why an eleven year old cannot teach his seven year old brother how to read. When the child slips into teacher mode he or she will have a massive confidence boost.

14. The ideal present. 

When you have find out what your child likes, remember that a book is a great gift. Or give book tokens and allow the children to make their own choices. But books should not be the only present. 

15. Reading should not be like a term in prison!

Although I've read thousands of books there are still some days when I prefer a walk, or just listening to music. Motivated reading is more about freedom, and less about control. Parents who are too ambitious can do quite a lot of damage. Use your common sense and find a negotiated balance.

Finally.  

Shared time may, in fact, be the most rewarding human interactive element in reading.

Over to you! Do you have any tips, recommendations, or questions?


© Dr Ian McCormick. But please do contact me if you want to use this article as a guest post on your blog. With attribution offered I seldom refuse!

2 comments:

  1. I work with children from year 3 through to year 6 and I find praising any effort and improvement in reading works wonders.

    When reading is difficult I ask the child to tell me what we've read in their own words. Verbal skills are usually more fluent than reading ability so this always gives them a greater sense of belief in their understanding and grasp of the text. So, without putting too much pressure on them it also encourages them to want to know more for themselves once they realise that they really do understand what they've covered.

    Children (girls and boys alike) like to know things about things that interest them - find that and you have the key to treasures for their mind and life.

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  2. What happens when we trust children with the problems that adults created. See my blog ...
    Community Media - Interactive World: Children, Climate Change and Collaboration http://cmactivist.blogspot.com/2011/10/children-climate-change-and.html?spref=tw #green #eco #edu #creativity

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