“How to Raise Boys Who Read”: An Educator and Parent Responds

The media has a lot to say about boys and reading.  I will speak to recent media coverage over the next month.  However, having been a teacher of fourth and fifth grade boys and now a mother of a second grade boy, I am always looking for ways to engage boys in reading.  So this month on Literacy Toolbox, I hope to focus on boys and reading.

In a recent (September 24, 2010) Wall Street Journal Opinion piece, “How to Raise Boys Who Read,” Thomas Spence relays his opinion on what not to allow boys to read in order to raise boys who read.  While Spence is entitled to his opinion, I respectfully disagree.

Boys and girls are biologically different.  I see this difference daily between my own children (one boy and one girl).  My son has always been a very active and competitive boy.  I have, honestly, done nothing to foster this activity or competitiveness within him.  It comes naturally.  My daughter, on the other hand, is an active four year old, but can sit quietly playing by herself.  She could care less who comes in first or last and frequently has issue when her brother tells her that he “won” something she had no idea she was competing for.

Mr. Spence indicated that if I allow my son to read gross-out books or books that exploit his love of bodily humor, I’m more likely to raise a moronic barbarian who will not make a good husband, father, or professional.  I beg to differ.

I don’t think the types of books my son reads has anything to do with the adult he will become.  I think my parenting does.  If I don’t instill in my son manners and appropriate behaviors then, absolutely, I risk the chance of raising a barbarian.  But, I do instill manners and specific values in my son and I allow him to read whatever he chooses.  Sometimes he chooses to read Captain Underpants and sometimes he chooses to read National Geographic for Kids.  It all depends on his mood and his interests at the time.

Indicating that my son or any boy is going to become a moronic barbarian because of his reading choices makes as much sense as saying that children are going to grow up to become ineffective adults if we allow them to listen to certain music or watch certain TV shows.  All of this is in direct relation to parenting.  As a parent, you choose how to raise your child.  If I choose to allow my son to eat his meals without silverware, talk with food in his mouth, and act disrespectfully, then I will probably raise a barbarian.  But, by allowing him to read books that pique his interest, that engage him, that make him want to read more?  I think not.

So, I say provide your sons with anything and everything they may want to read.  Captain Underpants, Grossology books, “Sweet Farts,” – whatever gets them reading.  Because as far as I’m concerned, as long as my son is reading, he’s learning.  And believe me, he didn’t learn about farts and burps from a book!

Check back with me in 20 years, but I believe that my son will be a functioning and successful member of society.  And if he’s not, blame my parenting, not the books he read as a kid.

Mr. Spence also touched on video games, but I think I’ll discuss video games and boys in another post.  In the meantime, if you are interested in ways you can entice boys to read, check out my post, Boys and Reading: Tips for Making Reading “Boy-Friendly.” (Just a warning: the post may contain recommendations for books that contain bodily humor).

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

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5 Responses to ““How to Raise Boys Who Read”: An Educator and Parent Responds”

  1. "How to Raise Boys Who Read": An Educator and Parent Responds (via Literacy Toolbox) | Kristi Bernard Says:

    […] It’s can be tough getting boys to read. This is great information. The media has a lot to say about boys and reading.  I will speak to recent media coverage over the next month.  However, having been a teacher of fourth and fifth grade boys and now a mother of a second grade boy, I am always looking for ways to engage boys in reading.  So this month on Literacy Toolbox, I hope to focus on boys and reading. In a recent (September 24, 2010) Wall Street Journal Opinion piece, “How to Raise Boys Who Read,” Thomas Sp … Read More […]

  2. Jackie Says:

    I grew up in an all girl house and now I am raising boys. They are still really little, 2 yrs. and 9 months. They are already amused by bodily functions. I swear, we did not teach them this stuff. (Ok, maybe my husband did behind my back.) But I think it is somewhat inborn. We might as well work with it, to an extent, I do teach my boys manners, too. My husband even thinks bodily functions are hilarious and he’s no barbarian. I think you have a very balanced approach and response. As a mom of boys, I enjoyed your post.

    • Links to Literacy Says:

      Thanks, Jackie! I think we need to let boys just read what they want to read! If the stats are true and boys lag behind girls so badly, why wouldn’t we want to encourage boys to read whatever interests them? They are reading! Let them read!

  3. Tool Time Rewind: A Month in Review at Literacy Toolbox « Literacy Toolbox Says:

    […] “How to Raise Boys to Read:” An Educator and Parent Responds […]

  4. “We-View” Wednesday – The Butt Book « Literacy Toolbox Says:

    […] month I wrote a post about letting boys read whatever interests them.  I stand by that, and this book is a perfect […]

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