Monday, 2 July 2012

Boys & Reading

This BBC article below is interesting, especially for anyone with sons. Books in this house are read every day, not because we have 'reading hour' or 'book corner time' or any other prescribed form of learning, but because our boys will come up to us at any time of the day and ask to be read to. Neither do we 'teach' our boys how to read, instead we will sit them on our lap and read to them, answering any questions about the letters or words as they are asked. When they are bored of reading they will go off and play with their toys, watch a bit of TV or whatever they feel like doing. It is this laid back approach that I feel has resulted in Joseph wanting to learn about letters. He spots 'J' and says 'that's J for Joseph' and spots 'ch' and says 'thats 'ch' like Charlie'.

Joseph loves silly books; any references to poo or pants is always a winner. Callum likes pictures, be it kids book with pictures of apples or cars or my large hardback of 20th century war planes (yes I'm a bit of a nerd!). Charlie loves short story books and will happily sit and listen over and over again to different stories and never get bored.

I can't help but wonder how forcing children to read set books, at set a time with a view to always reaching the next level can be useful. It certainly isn't useful for boys who probably just want to run around outside and have fun. I for one will be at work whilst the Sun is shining outside longing to be out on the beach, getting some fresh air rather than sitting in my car on the motorway, why would my boys be any different??

All that said, I should like to point out that this isn't the fault of teachers. Far from it, I'm sure any teacher would want to see their pupils progress. The problem comes when you try to measure that success. The government gives money to schools and has an obligation to ensure it is being put to good use. How do they do this, or rather how can they do this without making reading boring? How can this ever be done in schools between 9 and 3 with all those other lessons being squeezed in? I would love to answer this question but I cant, I simply don't have an answer.

The answer for my family is to allow our children to learn at home. The home where they can play outside on mud, even when its raining. The home where we (nearly) always have time to read books when asked. The home where lunch is when the boys are hungry, not at designated times. Writing is when Joseph scribbles his name on the wall and blames his brothers. Science is learning that the orange bowling ball is lighter than the pink one. Maths is that if I knock down 8 pins, there are now two pins remaining. And that sods law is that the two pins will be the two furthest apart and that the bowling ball will sail straight down the middle!


  1. I can't help wondering if maybe children are put off reading when it is made into a puzzle and something they can get wrong by us adults! There is a growing body of evidence which suggests that certain processes in the brain need to be ready in order for a child to understand written language, and this can happen anywhere between 3 and 12 or older in some cases. Forcing a child to read before they are ready will only put them off and make them feel stupid surely? Boys are often said to prefer reading magazines, comics and newspapers rather than storybooks...In all the years Ollie and I have been together I have only known him read one book (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time!) and yet he reads for most of everyday and is often the one to point me in the direction of interesting online articles! Perhaps it would help if we didn't make value judgements about what is worth reading. If they enjoy it and want to read it, chances are its worth reading!!

    1. Exactly! How can any teacher with a class of 30 children pick up on and assist their different interests in one room? Schooling needs a new approach all together... I dont have the answers either. Im wondering when schooling came to be and how people learned in the past.

  2. I was listening to the BBC Radio 4 programme 'My Teenage Diary' where a famous person reads extracts from their childhood diaries. This week was Caitlin Moran, who is a journalist and author.

    She spoke of how she was home educated in a very liberal fashion, no formal learning. Instead she and her five younger siblings were just left to it. At the age of 13 she wrote an essay on 'why I like books' and won £250 in book tokens. At 15 she won young reporter of the year from the observer and at 16 her first novel, The Chronicles of Narmo, was published.

    I think this is proof enough that literacy skills need not be taught but instead will be learned. Passions will grow in a very natural way. Moran describes how her family had little money but from a young age she would go off to the library and borrow books to read.

    I wonder, had she been school educated, whether she would have had such success in her career..... Perhaps.

  3. There was a time (during their home education) when 2 of the triplets could read and Molly couldn't.....the day she started to read was when her sisters and friends were singing karaoke and she couldnt join in!! It didn't take long after that! She has also never been a huge fan of 'books' unless (a bit like Joseph) they are joke books or rude :-)