This might come as a surprise, since we often don’t think of boys wanting to talk and socialize, but boys like social activities. Just think of the activities they enjoy the most. Baseball, football, basketball – team sports are the ultimate social activities. Even movies and video games can be perceived as social for boys. When all their friends are playing the latest game or going to see the newest release, boys want to be “in the know” and able to keep up with their friends socially.
On the flip side, books and reading are perceived as anything but social. As a solitary activity, boys sometimes equate reading with being anti-social, a nerd, weird or a loner. We can help change this perception by making reading a social activity for boys, one that they want to share with friends.
We know reading aloud to kids is important to their literacy development when they are young, before they can read for themselves. But why should the activity stop there? When we only participate in reading with young kids, do we send the message to boys that “reading is for babies”?
I will always remember my third grade teacher reading to our class. Together we laughed at the jokes and funny mishaps throughout the book. Since my classmates and I “read” the story together, we could talk about it together – reading aloud made it playground conversation. There is also something undeniably thrilling about someone reading aloud to you. When they are read to, boys are free to be entertained and enjoy the book, without the worry of being called on to read aloud themselves.
Recommendations and Reviews
Boys care about what their friends think. Shhh… they don’t want us to know that! A book recommended by a friend, needs no other stamp of approval for boys to want to read it too. Schools can help encourage this kind of sharing with book recommendation boards in classrooms or libraries. There boys can post their book pick for the month or week and write a short description or reason why they choose it. If the resources are available, a review website or blog is another great way to engage boys with sharing books.
Encourage your son or student to share books with friends. There is a good chance, if he enjoyed the book, his friends will too. Book groups can take many different forms. They can be theme based around boys’ interests – groups dedicated to biographies, science fiction, mysteries, etc. The groups can all read the same book at once in order to discuss it together, or it can be more like a swap-meet where boys borrow and share their books with each other. Even in a non-formal discussion setting, eventually boys are likely to talk about their favorite parts, embarrassing events and the funniest characters in the books – on their own time and in their own way.
Instead of the old, romantic view of a book being a old friend to visit with on a wintery day, boys need to know that reading can fit into their developing social lives. Then the option will be theirs – reading to enjoy alone or to be shared with friends. Let’s help boys realize it can be both.