IT is a fact that boys don’t read as much as girls, though in school our success at getting kids to read for pleasure fails for both sexes, particularly as students move from elementary to middle school and then high school. For the boys the drop off occurs early – sometimes as early as elementary school, but with a near universal occurrence by the end of middle school. We should not sugarcoat the truth: by high school 95% of our boy students do not read for pleasure, which means that they really don’t read at all unless it’s required for class, a test, or a grade. Our success with girls is better, and many leave high school maintaining the healthy reading attitudes they built in middle school and earlier, but it’s still a damagingly low number. Too many kids simply don’t read on their own and they suffer academically because of it.
Here in Colombia we have an interesting wrinkle to the usual kids and reading dilemma. Getting kids to read has no easy solution wherever you teach. Our school in Colombia is entirely bilingual; kids have both an English and a Spanish literature course. We struggle, as most bilingual schools do, with getting students to speak in English rather than Spanish. Our task is to create truly bilingual students, but since their native social language is Spanish they are far more at ease interacting in Spanish than English. Here’s the interesting part: they much much prefer to read in English. The reasons for this are related to the reasons we have a hard time getting kids to read in any school: academic reading versus pleasurable reading. In elementary and middle school, the emphasis in English is interest and choice, in keeping with Columbia University’s Reader’s Initiative (which most International American schools have adopted). Colombian schooling, on the other hand, is far more traditional, and the texts the students read are selected for their academic and cultural purpose. Students read The Hunger Games in English, The Iliad in Spanish. Moreover, our selection of English texts is varied, modern, individualized, and entertaining. Our Spanish language library is 1/10th the size of our English library, which also contains a regularly updated selection of ebooks that students can check out. Students prefer reading English books because the English books are entertaining and because they are free to choose. Continue reading “The Simple Reason Boys Don’t Read”