Anne Croxford has many years experience in children's books and has provided some useful advice on getting boys interested in reading,
with some suggestions for books that could ignite the spark
Education Minister Michael Gove’s assertion last week that children should read 50 books a year is likely to reignite the debate on the best ways of encouraging children to read, especially boys. Indeed, if you type into Google the phrase “encouraging boys to read”, you get some idea of the scale of the problem, not just in this country but in many parts of the world, boys are doing less well than girls, throughout the education system.
Boys lack of interest in reading isn't new, although it is likely that technology has made the situation worse in the last couple of decades. It has also been argued that the education system just isn’t geared towards the way that boys learn; they have ants in their pants. Yet reading is fundamental to all learning and unless children can read properly they struggle cross the whole curriculum.
Here are a few tips to help ensure that your son is a reader for life.
It may be stating with the obvious, but reading with children regularly is incredibly important and it is never too young to start, babies as young as five months show an interest in books, even if they are the chewable variety.
Getting dads and other males to read with young boys, is particularly helpful. It is also good for children to see their parents reading, especially their dads and other males.
The key to getting boys to enjoy reading is to introduce them to books which appeal to their love of action, adventure, super-heroes, mystery, humour and even horror.
Boys are naturally curious and often develop more interest in non fiction than girls. This curiosity about a subject can be a great way of engaging them in reading to find out more about their chosen subject, even if it is football.
Let them choose what they want to read, without being too prescriptive and don’t force them to read when they are just not able to sit still, as this will create negative associations. However, settling down with a good book is a way of calming down boys who are over tired or fractious. Reading little, but often may work best for your son, if he seems to have a short attention span, but this will usually improve once he starts to enjoy books.
Do some preparation yourself. Think about how to talk about the story, their favourite character, the pictures. Children of both genders like repetition and will often have a favourite story and character. Maybe you can find further books with this character, make up alternative endings or even your own stories together based on the characters they love. This is a good idea for long car journeys, as well as audio books.
If you are not already a member of a local library, join tomorrow, not only for a plentiful supply of new books but also because our local libraries have lots of events for young children, especially during the holidays; keeping them involved in books, outside of term time.
Don’t confine reading just to books - comics, the Internet, billboards and even cereal packets can count as reading.
Here are a list of books that may help you ignite a love of reading.
For babies - the touchy feely 'Thats not my' range - lots of titles including: Thats not my dragon,car and pirate. The series was awarded "Best Buy" by readers of Prima magazine. Babies like touchy-feely books with simple, repetitive text and bright, colourful illustrations with textures to touch and feel on every page; which help very young children develop language and sensory skills.
Toddlers - Lift the flap,noisy or wind up books. such as Noisy Football match, Noisy tractor, wind up tractor or train - or how about Noisy Wind up Fire engine! Our Lift and look range has lots to spot with hidden surprises along the way. Titles such as Emergency vehicles and dinosaurs
For boys beginning to read on their own or with some guidance, the Usborne Very First Reading, First reading and Young Reading series have many titles that will appeal to boys - some of which are taken from our Picture book series. Many boys prefer to read books with big busy pictures which have simple and engaging text,. Examples inlude, On The Farm, Robin Hood and Pinocchio.
The Usborne Reading Programme has been developed with reading experts at the University of Roehampton and they have easy-reading text for children who have just started reading alone. Also good for this age are the Usborne Beginners which are colourful information books for children beginning to read on their own, with vivid, full colour illustrations and photographs on every page, accompanied by short, informative text. Examples include London, Living in Space and Reptiles.
Many of the series in our fiction range are great for boys.....Oliver Moon, Tom's Creaky Castle, Dino FC, and the new secret Ninja Spies series for boys beginning to read chapter books on their own but who still need short chapters, with comic exploits and extraordinary characters.
Older boys will enjoy fast paced mysteries with adventure and often a supernatural or spooky twist.
Titles in the Usborne range include:
Return to the lost World by Steve Barlow
Kiss of Death - Malcolm rose
Red Eye SP Gates
As an alternative to fiction, many boys prefer to read information and encyclopedia type books. Usborne is fantastic at presenting information in an easy to read but exciting format. Examples include: See Inside series - eg Recycling and Rubbish,Ships,How things work - These books includes simple, informative text and picture labels with over 50 flaps to lift to reveal fascinating facts.
Handbooks - Pharaoh's, Pirates, Roman Soldiers and Knights. For example, The Pharoah's Handbook is an informative guide for befuddled pharaohs about how to rule the Land of the Pyramids. It includes everything power-hungry young pharaohs need to know to run their country smoothly, including helpful tips on how to be mummified and survive the journey to the afterlife. Its witty illustrations complement the text creating a friendly and accessible introduction to Ancient Egyptian history.
Newspaper histories -A fresh and lively look at history, written in the style of a tabloid newspaper
Visitors Guides to Ancient times - Greece, Rome, Egpyt - A handy guide for time-travellers planning a trip back to Ancient lands, full of historical information about interesting tourist attractions, important festivals and the fashions and customs of ancient times. Written in an amusing style with a guide to the best villas, hotels and markets, and internet links to find out more.
True Stories - e.g The Second world War, The Blitz, Polar adventures, Heroes. The stories are illustrated with maps and line drawings and there are notes on sources and ideas for further reading. A great read and perfect for reluctant readers.
Finally we have rewrites of Classics, retold for the younger reader - e.g Jason and the Argonauts, Treasure Island, Kidnapped, Don Quixote. These are a simple re-telling of an important book, considered by many to be the first modern novel. They are faithful to the original story, retaining the atmosphere and drama of the original version. They are ideal for enthusiastic young readers, and encourages an interest in literature.
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