Our boys

They are running around.

They’re kicking balls.

They’re kicking each other.

They’re on PS3 and Wii.

They’re building stuff and smashing stuff.

They’re trying to fly.

They’re swapping cards.

They’re skate-boarding and scootering.

They’re making a mess.

They’re ours.

They’re fabulous.

They’re not reading.

And they need to.

And it can be a real battle getting them to.

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Boys and books – a mum’s story

Boy vs Beast co-creator Susannah McFarlane talks about her personal battle to get her son reading.

I used to think my son Edvard was gifted (don’t we all?) and particularly with reading.

When he was just two, we would sit in bed and I would read one of his favourite books, dutifully pointing to the words as I read and he would read with me.

I was thrilled, I was proud, I must be a good mother! He is reading at two.

But then I worked out he had memorised the words – we had read his favourites so many times, he knew the story by heart.

So he was still gifted (superior memory skills obviously) but he wasn’t reading.

And he didn’t.

He loved being read to but he wouldn’t read to himself.

He couldn’t. At least, not in a way he enjoyed and not books he wanted to read. He would do OK at reading tests but he couldn’t keep still long enough to read a book, to read a chapter, so he didn’t. And soon, the books he could read bored him and the books he wanted to read were too hard.

I was worried. If he couldn’t read, it wasn’t just that he would miss out on books, he would find the rest of his learning difficult. And time was running out.

I was also – and still am - a children’s book publisher. I talked to teachers, I talked to boys, I talked to other mums and I talked to my son. And then at the company I used to co-own, we created Zac Power, now one of Australia’s most popular series for boys. We worked to create books boys would love and would want to read.

Most importantly, as a Mum, Edvard wanted to read them – and he went on to read other books as well. You won’t often find him huddled in corner reading for hours but he does reads and has even said he loved some books!

Of course he’s still gifted – and now he reads as well.

I spend time doing volunteer literacy work and while lots of boys love spies, some prefer mutant beasts and battles. They are obsessed with Pokemon or Yughio and can talk to you about beast evolution and battle attacks for hours. They tend not to be the best readers. Same problem.

So, with Louise Park, I wanted to create a new series of books. We spent a lot of time with teachers and boys. This time we wanted to make a series for the youngest and perhaps most reluctant of reading boys. I knew we must getting somewhere when a young beast master told me ‘your beasts are awesome now! Can I read the book?’

Now wouldn’t that make any mother smile?

 

The Facts – Sad but true:

Boys have poorer literacy rates than girls.

75-85% of at risk children (with poor literacy skills) were boys.1
Australian boys do less well than girls in early literacy rates.2

Boys don’t think of reading as entertainment.

65 per cent of males surveyed as part of the Young Australians Reading survey said they consider reading irrelevant. 3

Boys, reading tastes differ from girls’ and what adults might think suitable.

Research shows boys like to read escapism, humour, science fiction, fantasy, sports and hobbies and books that are part of a collection or series 3

It’s hard to get them to read – and keep them reading.

Yet it is one of the most important skills our children learn

Countless studies all conclude that reading is powerful: literacy in early years is strongly correlated to how successful one is in later years. A 2004 Australian survey found that 75-85 per cent of ‘at risk’ children (with poor literacy skills) were boys.4

But how can you help them read? How can you help enjoy reading?

There’s no magic but there are some things that might make getting your children reading easier.

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Mark Australian Council for Educational Research. (2004). Boys in school and society, Research Highlights.

Mark Gilbert, P., & Gilbert, R. (1998). Masculinity goes to school. St. Leonards: Allen & Unwin.

Mark Smith, M, W., & Wilhelm, J. D. (2002). Reading Don’t Fix No Chevy, Literacy in the Lives of Young Men. Omaha: Heinemann.

Mark Australian Council for Educational Research. (2004). Boys in school and society, Research Highlights.

"I was worried.  If he couldn’t read, it wasn’t just that he would miss out on books, he would find  the rest of his learning difficult.

And time was running out."

Boy Super Hero
Boy Ball
Susannah McFarlane
Boy Soilder

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