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Helping Underachieving Boys Read Well and Often (page 2)

By — Educational Resource Information Center (U.S. Department of Education)
Updated on Dec 16, 2008

Classroom Strategies for Increasing Boys' Reading

Reading aloud by teachers, guest readers, and students is a valuable classroom activity to which substantial amounts of time should be allotted. It is especially beneficial for boys who may not be reading at other times and need to be introduced to the pleasure that reading provides. Teachers can capture boys' interest by associating the material to be read with their existing knowledge. When they read aloud to boys, teachers can help them to associate sounds with symbols by letting them follow along with the text. Rotating reading materials of different genres allows boys to see the many types of reading materials available--not just novels and textbooks, but also newspapers and magazines, how-to guides, comics, and computer programs--and their multiple uses (Simpson, 1996).

Boys gain confidence in their reading ability when they read aloud in class. Frequent interruptions or corrections undermine this confidence, however. Since teachers correct boys' reading more than girls', they need to be sensitive to the effects of their criticism (McCarthy, Nicastro, Spiros, & Staley, 2001; Smith & Wilhelm, 2002). Additional time for silent reading promotes the independent development of skills and the enjoyment of reading.

Teachers can help boys comprehend reading materials and promote analytical thinking by involving them in class or group discussions. Students can review the content, purpose, and presentation of particular types of books, and how they differ. They can "talk about stories as constructions of the world, not as reflections of it," and can consider whether they empathize with the characters. They can use their imaginations to recast a story using characters of a different sex or ethnicity. Because girls tend to dominate discussions of books, teachers need to take care that boys participate (Simpson, 1996, p. 278).

A library in the classroom stocked with attractive age- and ability-appropriate books encourages boys to pick up one when they have a free moment. Inviting all children to design the library area, and to choose and organize the books, promotes use. Regular visits to the school library show boys a much wider range of reading materials and foster their desire to improve their skills so they can read the more sophisticated material there. Outings to the public library serve the same purpose. Also, getting children library cards encourages future visits with their families (Calkins, 1996).

Joint Strategies for the School, Community, and Home

Schools, libraries, and community groups can join with families to improve boys' reading. Adults can talk about how reading alone and with friends, looking for books in stores, libraries, and flea markets, giving books as gifts, and sharing what they have learned, makes them happy and helps them relate to others (Calkins, 1997).

More formally, organizations can implement reading programs. They can provide male reading role models of color to help boys develop the habit of reading. Such role models are especially important for boys living in homes without men, and including them in a supplementary education program can help compensate for families that do not read at home. Men can model reading by doing so themselves and reading aloud to children, and by telling children why reading enriches their own lives (Tanksley, 1995). A tutoring program can also employ adult role models. Alternatively, it can pair less proficient readers with more accomplished students who can instinctively select appealing books, articles, and manuals providing instructions for engaging in an activity or constructing a model. Of course, all tutors can use school texts (Tanksley, 1995).

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