Classroom Strategies to Get Boys Reading
Do Schools Cater More to Girls than Boys?
Elementary school classrooms have a tendency to be girl-centric. Most elementary school teachers are female and they often teach to the learning styles that best fit their girl students without even realizing their male students are suffering. The PBS Parents website has a terrific article about how schools seem to cater to girls. One example: example: do you remember ever keeping a journal in school? Sitting down to write introspectively is definitely a female learning style. Boys express themselves through action. However, many teachers make their male students feel that expression through physical behaviors is inappropriate for school, and certainly inappropriate come time to read and write.
Boys are Different
Boys are already behind girls when it comes to verbal and communication skills. It’s simply the way their brain develops; it is not a deficit or a handicap. And elementary schools are 4/5ths language based! Not only that, but since most teachers are female, the reading material introduced is often unintentionally suited for a female audience. Schools are losing boys’ interest before they can even learn literacy skills.
Boys and Literacy
There is an excellent book by Elizabeth Knowles and Martha Smith entitled Boys and Literacy. (See Mike McQueen’s in-depth review of this book.) The authors ask teachers to re-think reading strategies in the classroom. They encourage teachers to allow for frequent breaks from sitting and to be lenient about moving around in the classroom, and allow for more sensory activities throughout the day.
They also encourage adult male participation. Boys need male role models, especially when it comes to reading! Having a father, a male teacher, or volunteer come into the classroom to talk books and perhaps read aloud could make a huge difference to an incredulous male student.
Some other ideas from the book include:
- Stocking the classroom with reading materials that interest boys! (Comic books, Guinness Book of World Records, Sports Magazines, etc.)
- Read humorous poetry/ books aloud. Perform! Be wild! The boys will think it’s hysterical.
- Use reader’s theater. Expressing themselves through action helps boys become fluent thinkers.
- Allow boys to have choice in their book selection. Allow them to read nonfiction books.
- Put boys with similar interests together in book talks.
- Never make a boy read aloud unless he so desires or has had time to prepare beforehand.
- Most importantly, allow boys to be boys. This may mean letting them read, write, and draw about things like pro-wrestling, aliens, and the occasional fart joke. The point is to allow them to experiment with the writing process by giving them topics they are comfortable writing about.
Changing the Way we do Things!
I don’t believe the school systems are failing our boys. My husband, the definition of a guy’s guy, is an avid reader. Unlike me, he is perfectly happy to sit and read his novel in the midst of the commotion of four kids running about, jumping on him, vying for his attention. It must be a guy thing. Schools are not, however, making things easy for boys by only catering to female learning styles. Simply remembering the differences between the sexes can help both male and female students excel in the area of literacy.