My Dad Can’t Read

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When my oldest nephew was 7, he explained his bedtime routine to me.  After supper, he had his bath, then he waited for his mom to finish cleaning the kitchen so that she could read to him.  I shared with him that my mom and dad read to me too.  My nephew looked at me and flatly responded, “My dad can’t read.”

Though this was no laughing matter, I giggled just a little bit.  I told him that his dad most certainly could read.  He just didn’t see him do it that often.  I suggested that he and his mom invite his dad to read with them sometimes.  I also wondered to myself what they could do as family to keep my nephew interested in reading and books for the long haul.

What Kids Are Reading (2016), a new report from the UK, has a bit to say about boys and books.  The report sums up student reading habits and noted that boys don’t read as much as girls; boys don’t read challenging books; and boys don’t read all of the pages.  Luckily, the report isn’t condemning boys and men to a lifetime of poor reading. Contributor, Chris Bradford, says that, with boys, you just need to find ways to “hook” them with the right types of reading materials.

Bradford suggests that the way to encourage boys to read is to focus on their interests.  Find out if they are moved by technology, video games, or sports, and identify reading materials that peak their interests.  He also said that writing style was important, suggesting that humor and thrillers might also be good bets.

The report’s author, Keith Topping, is a Professor of Educational and Social Research at the University of Dundee. He has published many works, including two papers that draw attention to the reading skills gap between boys and girls.  In an interview with The Guardian, Topping discussed his findings.  He shared that, though boys are “lagging” behind girls, it is not the result of socioeconomic status.  He suggested that boys need to read more.  He also suggested that teachers, librarians, and other school personnel talk to boys about the importance of choosing challenging reading materials, as well as help them identify reading topics they might enjoy.

I can still remember my nephew’s face when he found out his dad could read.  He was so surprised–quite literally, I might add.  Though my nephew is all grown up now, I still appreciate the importance of Bradford’s and Topping’s advice. Encourage boys to read by finding materials that they will relate to and enjoy.  Set time aside daily to ensure that boys have an opportunity to read.  Although it’s not mentioned in the report, encourage dads to read in front of and with their sons.  Show them that dads can and do read too!


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