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Help Your Son Gain Reading Skills

Boys seem to have much more trouble learning to read than girls do. Test scores show that boys score lower in all facets of the language arts. In my experience as a principal, boys greatly outnumbered girls in needing help from reading specialists. More boys than girls score below grade level in reading as well.

There are many ways that parents can help their sons develop reading skills and help them to build proficiency.

Build a Love of Reading Early

Part of the secret is to begin to build a love of reading from the time children are toddlers. Whereas, a girl might sit for a longer period of time than a boy, parents are still able to read to their sons.

When possible, both fathers and mothers should read to their sons, since boys often report that reading is a "girl thing.” One important thing to remember is to stop as soon as boys become restless. Reading should be enjoyable, so do not insist that your son sit until the story is complete. Repeated reading of the same story is okay. If the child asks to read a book numerous times, continue to read it. Eventually, the child should be able to participate in the reading by chiming in.

Consider Nonfiction

Boys frequently prefer to learn about animals, trucks, sea creatures, or sports. Actually, many times if given a choice, a boy will choose to read a nonfiction book rather than a story. If your son has a particular interest, such as trucks, you can ask your local children’s librarian to help you select books that will interest him. Choosing high-interest materials will make reading interesting and increase enjoyment.

Generate Interest

The pictures in the book can help build interest for your son. Taking a picture walk through the book before reading can often motivate him to read it. Look at the pictures with him and together form a list of questions based on the images. As your son reads the book, encourage him to share the answers to the questions with you. If you are reading the book together, focus on finding the answers to the questions. Encourage him to call out when he hears the answer to the questions you have created.

Read Along With Him

Even as your son gets older, reading along with him can continue to motivate him and will help him to build his skills. I have often had parents tell me that their child had read a book that I knew was beyond the child's grade level and ability level. It is sometimes true that the child has read the book, but has comprehended nothing. There are also instances where a child can read aloud perfectly, yet still comprehend nothing.

This is why, even with children in the early grades and beyond, parents can really assess their child's reading ability by reading the same book and then asking the child questions about the reading. Without comprehension, children do not have significant reading skills and will not be able to function independently as they continue through the grades.

Continue to Motivate

Upper elementary school boys may continue to need encouragement to read for pleasure. Permit them to select reading materials. In this case, too, it can be helpful to read the same book as your son is reading. Sharing a discussion about a book can help make reading much more fun for him.

With reading, the goal is always to encourage all children to read for pleasure. Keep in mind that in today's world reading does not always have to be a magazine or a book. Reading material online is important, too! Reading is a skill, not so different from riding a bicycle or learning to shoot basketball hoops. The more you practice, the better you get!

Denise B. Geier, EdD is an associate professor at Northcentral University in Prescott Valley, AZ. She is a former principal, curriculum director, counselor, and teacher in the New Jersey public schools.

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