Saturday, January 11, 2014

Fathers' Influence on Boys' Reading

In addition to literacy being the foundation of all learning, reading for pleasure has been shown to improve performance at school in all subjects, including mathematics. It is therefore of the utmost importance that boys not only learn to read but enjoy reading. Fathers have an important part to play in boys achieving this goal.
Most fathers would like to see their sons do well in school, but many are in the dark about of the best way of helping them. Men usually leave matters to do with school and reading up to the mothers, only getting involved when things are going wrong, when they tend to take a heavy-handed approach. Unfortunately, when it comes to reading, that can have the opposite of the intended effect.
     Volumes have been written about methods of teaching children to read, and hundreds of hours have been spent researching how children learn, but how a person actually learns to read is still a mystery. Methods go in and out of fashion, and one set of research contradicts the findings of another. But one observation remains constant— a child learns best in an atmosphere free of stress, in the company of a supportive and caring individual. Badgering and harassing a child, or otherwise communicating anxiety will result in the child having an adverse emotional attitude towards learning.
     Fathers are quite likely unaware of the strong influence they have on their sons’ reading. Boys look up to their fathers, whether those fathers live with them, or see them at frequent or infrequent intervals. Boys want to be like them. If fathers are seen to be reading for pleasure, and if fathers read stories to their young sons, these boys will want to read, too. If not, they won’t see reading as important. Fathers who scorn the activity of reading, and express sentiments such as that reading is a waste of time will certainly make boys lose interest.
     All negative reactions to boys’ attempts at reading, such as shouting, expressing disappointment, or walking away, are likely to have damaging effects.  One boy I was attempting to help with reading told me that his father beat him because he couldn’t read. No wonder he couldn’t read! Instead of seeing reading as a pleasurable experience, any attempts he made would be accompanied by feelings of anxiety and fear. A father who praises all his son’s attempts at reading will be rewarded by further efforts by the boy.
     Even if a father himself cannot read, or is a poor reader, he can still influence his son in the right direction, by expressing regret about his own lack of competency and encouraging his son to read to him. Important also is a father’s attendance at PTA meetings, where they can hear how other parents are helping their children. At one such meeting about literacy, at Chetwood Memorial Primary School, a father told how he likes to play football with his son. He also likes to read, so they read before playing football. Even if the son sees football as a reward for reading, it will still have a positive effect.
     At the time of that meeting, I was trying to help eight students with their reading. The parents of all of them had been specially invited to that meeting. Only one parent came - a mother. No amount of money, or input from institutions or organizations, could achieve such a positive result in promoting literacy in boys as fathers’ encouragement and affirmation.
     My post on Boys' Reading makes some other suggestions about why boys don't like to read and what can be done about  it. At the time of writing, I hadn't considered fathers' influence at all, but it may be the one missing link in all this discussion. 


Eddie Jones said...

Great post on the importance of dads and their importance with reading. Readers Are Leaders - Buy a Boy a Book.

Helen said...

Thanks, Eddie. 'Buy a boy a book' has a catchy rhythm, easy to remember.Let's all buy a boy a book for International Book Giving Day, February 14,2012