Book reviews for Aussie teachers and their students.

Posts tagged ‘strategies to get boys and girls reading’

Strategies to Get Boys (and Girls) Reading: Tip 8

buy booksTip 8: Reward Kids with Books

To my detriment my kids understand too well the weak spot that I have for books.  When we are at the shopping mall my son will always beg to go into the book store.  He knows that his chances of a treat in there are higher than in any other store at our local Westfield.

While I tend to give away the vast majority of books I am given to review, my own children are book hoarders.  I love the glint they each get in their eyes when they have a crisp new book to read, and so, their personal collections keep growing; spilling in fact, from their book shelf to cover every available space in their rooms and everywhere else.  While I could bemoan the mess (and I often am heard to scream ‘Put these books away so I have some space to cook dinner!’), this is a good thing.  After all, as a wise person once said, ‘Books are the only thing that money can buy that will make you richer.’

This brings me to my 8th tip.  Reward kids with books.  In fact, I’m going to extend this to rewarding children with books and anything related to books.  For teachers this translates to book marks and reading related stickers.  It also might mean giving children the special experience to watch the movie version of a book they read and enjoyed, or, attend a book talk of one of their favourite authors.

There was a time once, in the not so distant past, when books were considered a luxury and the few volumes that people owned, were treasured and read, cover to cover, many times.  If you go into any antiquarian bookstore you can find old books, gifted to students as academic prizes, the fact which is recorded on the inside cover with a book-plate.  Do schools still do this?  I suppose in this information rich age, for many communities this is considered unnecessary, as children already have a lot of books.  However, in this country there are still too many homes for which books are noticeable by their absence.

About a year ago I made a commitment.  With three children and an abundance of birthday parties to attend, I would commit to only buying books as gifts.  ‘But Mum’, my eldest daughter said at the time, “. . . we like books but most of our friends can’t stand them.”  I must admit, at first, her statement threw me a little.  How could anyone not get excited by the prospect of a new book?  Of course, as an English teacher, I’ve seen the general apathy towards books from too many of my students.  Irrespective of this, I vowed to honour this commitment.  I just needed to try harder, do some research and select a book appropriate for the given child’s interests.  Since this time I have purchased books for my children’s friends, many of whom are reluctant readers.  Quite often they have approached me later to thank me for the book and tell me how much they enjoyed it.  It seems that even children who express their reluctance to read will appreciate a book if it has been selected for them, based on their personal interests.

Of course buying books can become an expensive activity.  It is the main reason why I have become one of the book depository’s best customers.  As educators with limited resources, we need to think outside the box on this one.  I have one colleague who created laminated bookmarks for her secondary students.  Each of the bookmarks was personalised with images that tapped into the various interests of the students.  No doubt flattered by the extra care and effort taken, the students thought they were awesome.

Tanya Grech Welden

How do you use books (or book related items) as gifts for children? What tips do you have for doing this in a cost effective way?

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Strategies to Get Boys (and Girls) Reading: Tip 7

men readTip 7: Get men to share their positive reading experiences with children.

I grew up in a household where it wasn’t the women who read, but the men.  My background is defiantly working class.  At the tender age of 14 my Maltese Grandfather told my father that “year 7 was enough education,” and he was promptly sent out to work.  Despite being forced out of formal education prematurely, my father has maintained a life-long love affair with books.  I remember as a small child poring over a set of encyclopaedias that my father had purchased as a young adult.  If I had a question my father was always there encouraging me to “go and find out for myself”.  Books, I am proud to say are something which was always cherished in my childhood home.  We even had a special room that was dedicated to storing the books and reading them.

It took me until I was an adult before I realised a couple of important things.  Firstly, I realised the gift that my father had given me.  Of course I am not speaking of the set of encyclopaedias, but of the love for reading and books.  Secondly, I realised that a passion for reading is too frequently something that is inherited.  It is usually a parent or grandparent who facilitates this, but sometimes it is a teacher or a librarian that fosters this appetite.  A short while ago I asked my father where he had inherited his love of books.  I had assumed that it had come from outside the family home since his father clearly had little value for what the education system might offer.  To my surprise he named his own father.  His father, it seemed, despite his views on education, was a book lover.

Indeed I was a fortunate young woman.  Although it was probably my brother (and my own son) who have benefited the most from my Dad’s love affair with books.  Increasingly, many Australian children live in homes where they don’t have this.  In fact, many children live in homes where not only does their significant male role model not read, but he may explicitly (or implicitly), convey the message that “reading isn’t cool” or (even worse), that “real men don’t read”.  It is a horrifying thought, and one which I have seen the consequences of daily in the classroom, with too many boys bowing to social pressure and blatantly refuse to read.  Even worse, many regurgitate the same messages that have been fed to them by the man in their life they most admire and aspire to.

While it is important that as educators we always talk positively about books it is crucial that our male teachers are given a dominant voice in this discourse.  This can be a great challenge in schools where male teachers make up a small minority in our English and Humanities departments.  This is especially the case, where men from “other” faculties refuse to support literacy initiatives in the school.  Fortunately, I belong to a school community where male staff are provided opportunities to voice their positive experiences of reading.  We have some awesome librarians working behind the scenes to facilitate opportunities for this.  However, we are also fortunate a to possess a few male educators who understand their role in developing literacy especially with the boys they teach.

I have a vision of Science and Maths teachers everywhere digressing from their lesson plans to highlight an important link to a Science Fiction novel they have recently read.  Similarly, I’d love to hear Physical Education using Michael Jordan’s biography to make links to their curriculum.  Of course, within the reality of the busyness of school life, this is a growing challenge.  It is hard to get staff to surrender their lunch time to share their reading with students.  Likewise, it is crucial that the school leadership team take time to break open these issues with staff and develop a school-wide approach to literacy where every member of staff from every faculty is a stakeholder.

How does your school provide opportunities for men on staff to share their positive experiences of reading with students?  How has your school leadership team involve all teachers in the development of literacy amongst students?  I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

Tanya Grech Welden

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