Ways to Get Boys Reading

One of my favorite children’s reading websites, The Children’s Book Review, just recently posted a fantastic article by Dawn Little entitled “Boys and reading: Tips for Making Reading Boy-Friendly.” It was filled with a lot of interesting information that we have touched upon here on Getting Boys to Read. For instance, their first tip for making reading more enjoyable for boys was to make reading active. They also encouraged providing boys with non-fiction texts, providing them with male reading role models, supplying them with graphic novels, incorporating technology into learning, and encouraging the reading of silly, gross, violent, or humorous books!
Tip #7 in the article “Boys and Reading” was to “create competitions.” Here is what Ms. Little suggests:
Challenge boys to informal spelling bees, brainteasers, or studying competitions.  Boys thrive on challenges and competition can be the stimulant they need to really care about reading (Gurian, 2005).   
Boys Thrive in Competitive Environments
I recently touched upon this issue in the article Should Boys be Bribed into Reading?” What I failed to discuss, however, was the distinct difference between girls and boys when it comes to competing.
The more and more I read and learn about how competition can spur boys to accomplish educational goals, the more I am inclined to encourage teachers and librarians to institute their own reading competitions in their libraries, classrooms, and even at home.
Michael Sullivan discusses mixing reading with competition in his book Connecting boys with books: what libraries can do. (Forward is by Jon Scieszka!) He writes:
“… mixing reading with competition- something boys are likely to respond to- may encourage boys to read more. It is reasonable to argue that rewards for reading are a temporary fix and that, in the end, boys will see reading as a chore for which rewards are necessary. But I am more inclined to view rewards as trophies for accomplishment, an acknowledgement of success.
Boys shy away from reading largely from insecurity; the feeling that this is not the right thing for them to do. A well-designed reading challenge can counter this insecurity if the goals are kept in mind. We must convince boys that reading is an acceptable activity and that reading in quantity is, in itself, success.”
Sullivan goes on to suggest that libraries ready to establish reading competition programs should base success on the quantity of books or pages read, not hours devoted to reading. He also encourages librarians and teachers to allow any type of book, even lower-level reading material, to be counted as a competitive book. Boys may be more likely to reading lower-level books in greater qualities than “better books” they are uninterested in and find boring. (However, monitor boys’ selections to make sure they are not choosing a book solely on the basis that it is an extremely easy and fast read!)
He also warns librarians of pushing boy’s to pursue reading for the “pure joy of reading” where time spent in quiet, reflective reading matters the most. Since boys are more likely to read informational purposes, their particular method of reading may not be reflective and may not be… quiet!
Create Your Own Reading Competition Just for Boys
Are you ready to start a reading competition for boys? Here are some tips for making it successful:
1)      Have boys log books read… not hours read. 
2)      Allow boys to choose what types of book to read. For instance, perhaps one month they can choose to read as many books about baseball as they can…
3)      Have prizes that they can look forward to receiving. (They might not want, let’s say, a book. After all, you’re teaching them they can read books for free from the library.)
4)      Consider what author Abigail Norfleet James calls “cooperative competition.” James observes, in her experience, that boys are more likely to participate in cooperative competition (where they work together for a common goal for the good of the group) when they are in a single-sex environment. They will treat the group as “an extension of their individual identity.” (Excerpted from: Teaching the male brain: how boys think, learn, and feel in school.) For instance, award prizes when the group as a whole achieves a specific goal.
5)      Have short-competition spans. Boys will lose interest in a competition that lasts an entire semester. Start with a smaller goal: a group prize or individual prizes when students read five books each. Try themed competitions: Perhaps each student reads a Roald Dahl book or scary books at Halloween time. (With parents approval, of course!)
6)      Incorporate games into the competition. If boys are all reading the same book, have them each create “quizzes” where they try and stump their friends. 

Do you have your own ideas to incorporate into a boys reading competition? Share below!

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