Saturday, September 25, 2010

Train Up a Boy With Quality Books

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal has an excellent article titled "How to Raise Boys Who Read" by Thomas Spence. Spence cites a recent report from the Center on Education Policy that says more boys than girls score below the proficiency level on the annual National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test, going as far back as 1992. Spence writes, "The male-female reading gap is found in every socioeconomic and ethnic category, including the children of white, college-educated parents."

Spence goes on to name some of the ludicrous titles of "books" that are promoted to young boys; boys who supposedly have lost the love of reading once held by previous generations of males. Titles that pander to bodily functions, Spence points out, are replacing quality writing as a way to "just get 'em reading," as one school librarian justifies it. (Mark 8:36 comes to mind: "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?")

The real culprit, however, behind the demise of boys wanting to read is video games and the parents who allow them to replace a good book. Video games are more popular with boys than girls, explaining the reading gap between the two. Spence quotes Dr. Robert Weis, a psychology professor at Denison University, who found that boys with video games at home spend more time playing them than reading, and their academic performance suffers.

Unless parents remove or don't allow video games in the first place, or closely and authoritatively monitor their use, this trend is bound to continue. That means parents must actually be the adult that a parent is supposed to be and say "no" to kids who want to keep playing on the computer or PlayStation. And that means parents also set a good example and get off the computer themselves.

Reading has been a major part of my life and my sons' lives since all of us can remember. I read Dr. Seuss to my sons as infants, and read to them out loud long after most kids were done being read to (if, in fact, they were read to at all). And when my sons began reading on their own, they didn't need dumbed-down bathroom humor books to entice them. Every boy I know who has been exposed to C.S. Lewis books has loved them.

Mr. Spence also makes a comment near and dear to my heart when he points out, in the last paragraph of his essay, that "there is no literacy gap between home-schooled boys and girls."

Read Thomas Spence's entire essay here:

"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." Proverbs 22:6

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