I recently came across this article about the fact that in just about every developed country, girls are reading more than boys. Some key points:
- Boys dedicate less than than girls to processing words, are more prone to skipping passages or entire sections, and frequently choose books beneath their reading levels.
- Girls are more likely to read for pleasure.
- The stereotype that liking and excelling at reading is a feminine trait is common in the US.
While it is great that efforts to increase reading in girls have worked, it is vital for boys’ continued academic success that they also cultivate a love of reading. What are some ways that Boys & Girls Clubs can support this? Here are a few tips:
It is no secret that this blog (aka me) LOVES to read books aloud to youth, but it isn’t only because its fun. Reading aloud enhances vocabulary and comprehension, and improves general literacy skills like reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Listening to stories read aloud also allows youth to actively listen to the story and imagine it in their heads, an important skill particularly for those who aren’t reading fluently yet. It’s also kind of a commercial for reading- if youth enjoy a book that is read to them, they will be more likely to seek out similar books on their own. And there’s no age limit! One of my most-loved traditions was me doing a dramatic reading of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven around Halloween with my 9 and older group. (Complete with a darkened room and candlelight and when I say dramatic I mean SO MUCH DRAMA.)
Stock books that boys want to read- even if they aren’t “traditional” books.
Thinking back to my own Learning Center (and classroom), the books that many boys were drawn to weren’t necessarily novels. Examples that come to mind are compilations like joke collections or the Guinness World Record annuals. But READING IS READING, and even these kinds of books build literacy skills! In your Club library, include a wide variety of material, whether compilations or sports biographies or “gross” science books. These days, comic books and graphic novels are huge hits. Also collect genres like science fiction, fantasy, and mysteries, and be sure to have books that are funny.
Make reading FUN!
This point goes along with the last one. Remember that the Club isn’t school, and while we certainly work to help our members academically, we can be endlessly creative in how we do that. Part of it is choosing reading materials that aren’t what they get to use in the classroom, but part of it is in HOW we use them. We can tie books to STEM projects in the Learning Center or games in the Gym. We can do Club-wide reading competitions over summer or spring break. We can start book clubs that are specialized- maybe one just for boys, or one focused on comic books. We can bring in storytelling through activities like role-playing games, such as Dungeons & Dragons. We can take the pressure off of explicit skill building and just allow youth to enjoy (and know they will be building skills as they do!
Partner with your local library.
At my Club, the county library system was one of our best partners. During the summer, we would take youth to their special events (love a free field trip!), and they even had library staff come to the Club to run literacy programming. They also kept me up-to-date on the newest in children’s literature, and helped me choose a rotation of books to keep in my room for free reading time. Librarians are one of the world’s best resources!
Model a love of reading.
While you can’t force your staff to be readers on their own time, we know that youth are always watching what we do, so letting youth know that you love to read can be a powerful model. This is particularly true for male staff. If you are in the middle of a good book, talk about it while chatting with youth. Bring books to read during breaks, or if you choose to do a Club-wide reading challenge, encourage staff participation. One way that I built relationships, especially with teens, was by reading Young Adult literature and graphic novels that they were into so that we could talk about it.
As I said before, READING IS READING, so encourage it in whatever form in all of your youth in fun, creative ways. When youth love to read, it opens up endless independent learning opportunities.
What creative literacy programming do you run in your Club? How do you encourage youth, especially boys, to read? Share in the comments below, on the BGCA Youth Development Facebook page, or email us at ClubXBlog@bgca.org!