June 7, 2013

Happenings in Hodgensville: Talking Boy Readers

Happenings in Hodgensville is me sharing myself with you, not reviewing a book or discussing what I am reading, but sharing what I am doing in my classroom and/or in my life.

During Armchair BEA I participated in the non-fiction post. I received an email letting me know I had comments. While reading them, I encountered a mother who has an upcoming fifth grader who is 11—or almost 11. She was looking for suggestions on what to give her son to read because he is struggling, and so is she as a parent.

I replied with a list of some of the series titles that are meant to appeal to reluctant male readers as well as a list of links that list out other titles as well.

She replied with this:

This got me thinking—how can we make reading fun, especially for boys?

little man at the main branch

 I can only comment on what I do with my own eight-year-old, who is a big reader (at least right now), and I’ve decided to share what we have done in our own household when it comes to reading. I don’t know if any of you will find any of this information helpful, but I do want to open a conversation on what we are all doing in our households when it comes to reading and our children.

1.    We have two branches of the public library that I take him.

One branch is closer to our house and is smaller, but as a small child he loved going there to play with the  puzzles, the carpet that has numbers and a train, a stage, and a puppet show.

The other branch is the main branch, with a much larger kids area. He loves to go there because of the  variety of books, the computers, the toys. In other words, he goes to the library not just to look for books  but to socialize. To do things he cannot do at home.

2.    My husband and I read at home. A lot.

When I was earning my Master’s in Library and Informational Sciences, my focus was on children and YA  literature and school media. Here’s what I learned: the #1 indicator of children reading lies with their parents.  Do their parents read? Do their parents provide opportunities to have access to books? Are books present in their home?

The answer to all of those questions within my household is YES! Yes, my husband reads (more than I do). Yes, I read. Yes, my son sees us reading. Yes, we take our son to the library to have access to books. Yes, we have books in our home. A lot of books. And we have spoiled him with books.

My husband worked for B&N for almost eleven years, so instead of spoiling our son with toys—because he knew we would say no to toys—we did not ever deny him a book he wanted to buy. As a matter of fact, his library in his own bedroom just about rivals ours.

3.    Reading to him every single night—even when we are exhausted.

I have to give my husband the 100% credit here. He reads to our son every night because I use this time to go to the gym. But on nights when my husband has to work, it falls on my shoulders.

My husband does not just read small books but whole novels. They will read a chapter or two a night, depending on time.

When I read to my son, I don’t really read to him, I read with him. We do “team reading,” which was how I tricked him into working on his reading. I would read a page or two, and he reads a page or two. If I forget to give him his turn, he gets really upset. If I forget it’s my turn to read, he reminds me. But he loves it. And he tries to do voices with the characters as well (another trait he gets from his dad who does the same when he reads to him). My voices are usually lame, but I give them a chance anyway.

4.    We don’t pressure him to read.

He reads when he feels like it, but we don’t ever say, “Little man, go grab a book and read for a while.” We allow him to have technology time, a show (watching TV), imagination time, art time, etc.

He chooses how to divide his time, and reading is usually just a part of it. Some days he sits around and reads all day (weekends/summer), and some days he may not pick up a book until bed time. But we do not stress it or harrass him about it.

We allow him his time. Why? Because sometimes we don’t feel like reading either. We don’t want it to be a chore. We want it to be a part of his life, something he does because he likes to do it, not because he has to do it.

5.    We spoil him at the book fair.

When it is book fair time at his school, he gets excited. He brings home the brochure, shows us what books he wants, and we discuss how much money he is allowed to spend. I usually send him $20 to school by himself, but I usually find myself going on parent night as well—mostly to shop for myself—and allow him to pick another book if he didn’t have enough the first time.

Here’s what has happened: he comes home with a book for me and usually doesn’t spend all of his money. He learns to purchase books for himself and manage his money at the same time.

I know this is not an option for all parents, and I know this is a luxury for my son, but it is a choice I make as a parent. If he is going to spend money on anything, I would prefer it to be a book.

6.    We allow him to pick his own books.

This is a big deal. As a small child, we picked his books for obvious reasons; however, any time we were at the book store, I always allowed him to choose his own books. At the book fair, the choice is 100% up to him.

We have been fortunate in that he has always picked age appropriate books. We don’t get caught up with reading levels. Sometimes he reads books lower than his level, sometimes he reads above his level, and sometimes he reads on his level. We don’t make a big deal about it. After all, I am an adult who enjoys reading children and YA novels. Who am I to thumb my nose at reading level? The point is to get books in his hands and allow him to read.

I’m not too sure if the six things I’ve listed above can be characterized as fun, but they are the biggest elements of how we deal with reading in our household.

I want to hear from you—what do you do to make reading “fun” with your children? Do you have a reluctant reader that struggles with picking up a book? What do you do?

Comment below and join the conversation. This is worth discussion.

Happy Reading!

-      The Hodgenator

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