In part two of our Encouraging boys to read series, we ask Dr George Jacobs, and Heng Huey Bin, Senior Librarian, National Library Board, on what are some of their recommendations for motivation boys to pick up stories. Read part 1 here.

Q: What are the recommended and not-so-recommended ways for motivating boys to read.

How To Encourage Boys To Read

Dr George Jacobs:

A few recommendations are:

  • Look for reading material everywhere, such as on food boxes, street signs and posters in MRT stations and bus stops
  • Help young boys make their own books, for example, parents can act as scribes to enable boys to create books about their families or about parts of their daily routines, and children can do drawings as part of their self-created books; and
  • Encourage boys to talk about what has been read to them, for example, do they like to do the same activities that were done by the characters in the book?

A few not-so-recommended ways of motivating boys are:

  • Do not expect boys to read at the same level as their sisters or female cousins at the same age
  • Do not turn read aloud sessions into language class; a little bit of instruction is fine, but the focus should be on enjoying the book, including conversation and activities accompanying the book
  • Don’t choose all the books; instead, let the boys have some control over what is read to them and
  • Don’t push too hard; if boys are not in the mood for books this evening, no worries – try again tomorrow.

Dr George Jacobs has written widely on reading aloud to children, extensive reading, cooperative learning and student-centred instruction. Since 1993, he has been based in Singapore, teaching for such institutions at the Southeast Asia Ministers of Education Organisation’s Regional Language Centre, Ministry of Education (Singapore), National Institute of Education (Singapore), Center for American Education and James Cook University.

What makes a good book for children

Heng Huey Bin:

It is recommended to motivate boys to read through:

  • Their interest

Only if they take an interest in the subject will they be inclined to find out more about it. For example, if a child likes to play soccer, he may take interest in soccer fiction and information books relating to soccer. If your boy likes to know more about war, introduce him to war fiction such as The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne and information books relating to wars.

  • Purposeful reading

Boys like to read something that they can pick up and apply the information right away. Take for example, Paddington’s guide to London: A Bear’s Eye View is a children’s version of a travel guide – books like these are great to borrow for boys in anticipation of a trip abroad.

  • Multi-media format

To make reading more appealing with sounds and visuals. Audio books and animated, talking ebooks such as Tumblebooks attract and engages younger readers.

  • “Cool” books and comics

Boys often perceive reading as “uncool”. By exposing them to “cool” books, they might change their perception of reading as “dull” and “nerdy”. For example, when the movie “Avengers” is out, you could get book on the Avengers to encourage boys to read more. Books that contain multi-media elements also tend to impress boys.

An example is The Search for Wondla by Tony DiTerlizzi, which directs readers to look at the interactive map online.

  • Peer influence

Just as friends would talk about the latest movies they watched, boys can also share good books they have enjoyed with each other. They pick up reading recommendations from their friends and share conversations about books they read.

Parents should take note NOT to:

  • Insist on something that doesn’t interest them. This might put them off reading as they will find it dull and oppressive. Boys also may not take well to pure romance novels as they associate them to be something that girls like to read.
  • Give books beyond their reading abilities as they will find it difficult to understand the text and gives up reading.It is also important to engage reading within their attention span, and slowly build upon their attention span, so as to avoid making reading laborious for them.
  • Give books featuring only a females as the protagonists as they would not be able to relate to the stories and do not want to be perceived as reading books for girls.
  • Provide extrinsic rewards as they will associate reading to rewards. Once the rewards are removed, they will stop reading. This will also kill their joy of reading in future as they can no longer appreciate the pure joy of reading.

TNAP Tip! Looking for E-books for kids? Try KooBits. If you are looking to raise eager readers, try EdVenture Books, well known their range of high quality and systematic early literacy materials like Rigby, Sunshine Books and National Geographic Windows on Literacy.

Part 1: How To Encourage Boys To Read (Part I)
Part 3: How To Encourage Boys To Read (Part III)

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