An article in the Wall Street Journal made me want to jump up in my kitchen and cheer. But that would be slightly embarrassing and also not very useful, so I’m blogging about it instead.
Thomas Spence, father of six boys and founder of Spence Publishing, opined that boys would read more if they were less distracted by video games and that the gap in reading between girls and boys can be traced to the rise of boys-who-game and girls-who-don’t.
AND or OR ?
You really need to read the whole article, but the underlying premise is that there is no magic involved in making sure boys read beyond putting books in their hands and limiting screen time*. This is an idea that Ink Spells has as an article of faith – that putting the right book at the right time in the right little hands can make all the difference in the world.
*This also validates my desire to keep a bonafide gaming system out of the house. Full disclosure: we play computer games.
But like any good parenting technique, it doesn’t happen just once on Tuesday, July 2nd, and all of a sudden a reader is born. As any parent knows, if you want it to stick you’ll have to repeat it. Again and again and . . . you get the idea. My 12 Tips for Reluctant Readers talks about different ways to keep doing the same thing over and over – reinforcing literacy in your home.
Spence also rails against gross-out books as pandering to the lowest common denominator of boys and leans toward homeschooling and a virtual ban on gaming in the home.
I don’t believe you need to go that far to make a huge difference in boy literacy. I do believe that you need to “meet boys where they are,” but mostly in terms of reading level and attention span. This is as true for reluctant readers as it is for advanced readers. And an occasional dalliance with graphic novels (or gross-out books) is not the end of literacy in a young man’s mind. Likewise a few hours of Lego Indiana Jones or Civilization IV is not going to eliminate any desire to read. But books have to pervade your home as much as the electronic delights.
As I mentioned in an interview recently, stories are like air for children: they need them to survive and to grow. If you put stories in their hands, children will become just as addicted to Artemis Fowl as they are to the World Tour of Crazy Machines II.
And once they get started, those grossology books will never be enough (witness my fav new tween bloggers, and their lament that their favorite books were too short). Their minds will crave more, and if you keep feeding it to them, they will grow up to be the civilized men that Spence refers to.
I can’t think of a loftier goal.