As parents we all have varying experiences of how our boys take to the challenge of learning to read. Some boys revel in the challenge, while others show little interest in learning the mechanics of reading—and I’ve had conversations with many mums who say they have a child in both camps.
Whether our boys are reluctant readers or rearing to go (or somewhere in between) we’d all agree that we want to be able to help our kids on their reading journey. Learning to read is such an important milestone in every child’s life and helping that process along is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children (along with our unconditional love!)
So if your young boy is riding the reading roller-coaster these top five tips will help keep him on track:
- Let him read anything he is interested in
There’s no rule to say learning to read should only involve books. In fact, the wider the variety of texts boys are exposed to the better. It’s all about keeping their interest from the beginning. So let kids read whatever floats their boat. Some things your boys might be into reading include comics, cereal boxes, junk mail, instructions on toys, shopping lists, recipes, billboards and cartoons in the newspaper. Whatever takes his fancy, let him go for it.
- Read together every day
I hear you cry, “But there’s so much to do in a day!” I agree. There is a lot to pack into a day, but like anything, if you want to become good at something you have to practise. It’s obvious, but true. It comes down to how much value we place on learning to read. If you think it’s pretty important, then it makes sense to spend adequate time reading with your son to help him become good at it. Making a regular time each day for reading is helpful. Ours is always at bedtime.
It’s quiet and relaxing and you never forget because your kids always go to bed (eventually!) Even 20 minutes each night adds up to ten hours a month—and that’s not including all of the other time your child spends reading at school and incidentally while taking in the written text that surrounds him in his daily environment.
- Mix it up with some fun online learning
Most boys can’t wait to get their hands on a keyboard to explore all the amazing things on the Internet. While they may be mostly interested in adventure games there’s no reason they can’t learn some helpful things along the way.
There must be thousands of reading-related websites and, as you would expect, some are better than others. To find the good ones ask your son’s teacher and other parents what they use. Here are three of our current favourites:
- Starfall is a great reading website starting with basic alphabet sounds through to higher reading levels.
- Reading Eggs is an Australian website with progressive, interactive reading lessons combined with reading books and activity books. There is a cost involved after a free trial.
- Mathletics is a well-known website focussing on maths skills from K-12, but there’s a lot of opportunity for reading practise in the maths activities.
- Make reading light and fun
A few mums have secretly admitted to me that they have lost their patience with their son while reading together. If we were all honest, we’d admit to doing it occasionally too. Why is it that our child can see a word 100 times and still not get it?
I can’t stress enough—don’t get stressed when reading. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Keep encouraging your son to have a go and keep reminding him (and yourself) that he will be a great reader one day.
- Show your son how much you value reading and books
We all know the old proverb; Monkey see, monkey do. Our kids are pretty perceptive little creatures and if they see us show a love of reading and an appreciation of books, then they are more likely to follow suit.
Do your kids see you reading regularly (and it really doesn’t matter if it’s the newspaper on the toilet—it’s still reading)? Do you have a good selection of books in your house, not only for your kids but for you as well? Do you frequent bookshops, even just to browse? Do you visit your local library with your kids and borrow for the whole family? Do you treat books respectfully and look after them? Do you read a variety of materials such as novels, magazines, newspapers, recipes, letters? Our actions speak volumes to our children.