Male models to develop the desire to read in boys

What relationship do young boys have with reading? How to develop their interest in literature in all its forms? A group of multidisciplinary researchers took an interest in the question.


ANALYSIS – We often hear that boys don’t read or don’t like to read. However, boys read, but not necessarily what the school environment offers them; For example, boys prefer to read documentaries, comics or magazines. Hence the importance of being able to choose the books they want to read and of varying the choices offered.

We are a group of multidisciplinary researchers, particularly interested in literacy, learning disabilities, the family-school-community relationship and psychology. Literacy as a whole includes reading, writing, oral ability and several other variables such as values ​​and culture.

The Importance of a Male Reader as a Role Model for Sons

The lack of a ‘positive’ male reading model may explain why boys read less quickly and have a negative perception of reading. The fact that the family is integrated in a literacy project, in a non-school context, can influence pupils’ perception of reading and develop their reading appetite.

Certain scientific studies show that by integrating the father into literacy programs in the family, there is a positive influence on the development of literacy in children, especially boys. In particular, family literacy is developing the ability to read in the family environment. For this purpose we created the project read with son in 2008. Since then, 30 male trios have emerged, but with the pandemic, this way of working was no longer possible.

This family literacy project promotes the creation of male trios (father, son, and education student) who share reading time at home.

The aim of the project is to develop his reading interest from the reading interests of the son who has difficulty reading or is not motivated (8-9 years old). Why at this age? Because then the gap between good readers and struggling readers widens.

The future teacher voluntarily travels in the family environment with his bag of children’s books, of various literary genres, related to the son’s interests. The son is the leader: he is in charge of the trio and determines what is read during the meetings. Of read with son, the 10 reading rights of author Daniel Pennac, which are derived from his work “Comme un roman”, are respected. These rights go against what is commonly advocated in the school environment:

  1. The right not to read
  2. The right to skip pages
  3. The right not to finish a book
  4. The right to reread
  5. The right to read something
  6. The right to bovarism (to dream!)
  7. The right to read anywhere
  8. The right to wrestle
  9. The right to read aloud
  10. The right to remain silent

As adults, we allow ourselves all these rights.

At school, students often have to read works that do not interest them. They should finish them and above all not skip any pages. When they are older, around the middle of primary school, they are often told that real reading is reading novels, when this is completely false. For example, reading a comic book is extremely rich and complex. A true comic reader reads the text and illustration of each box, in interaction, to understand all the subtleties. The same goes for the album (picture book): text and illustrations form a rich and inseparable whole for all ages. And often the illustrations “speak” more than the text.

Progress of the project

First meeting between all participants

This conversation normally takes place at school with the principal, the remedial teacher (if applicable), the teacher, the male parents, the future teachers, the sons and the researchers. This is when the questions are asked, each one’s role is determined, and the trios are formed. The male trios exchange coordinates and agree on time and place (home or elsewhere) for a first meeting as a trio, depending on everyone’s availability.

It should be noted that the sons have the information that they are “chosen” to lead a reading project with their father (or other important male figure).

Male Threesomes Dating

The process is free and no preparation on the part of the parent or child is required before or after the meetings. The duration of each meeting varies from 45 minutes to two hours.

At the start of the project, the male trios met in the family environment, every two weeks, for an hour or two, over a four-month period. We now recommend running the project throughout the school year to allow for more flexibility. In addition, at least three meetings were initially planned; we now recommend between 6 and 8 meetings to promote the creation of positive dynamics and a relationship of trust within the trios.

In this egalitarian relationship, each member of the trio has a specific role:

  • the son chooses what is read – or not – and decides how each meeting will go;
  • the future teacher, as a resource, brings diversified children’s works related to the interests of the son and follows the child in his reading choices;
  • the father (or other important male figure) participates in reading the works chosen by the son and guides the future teacher so that he understands his child’s reading interests.

Last meeting between all participants

For example, all participants meet in a restaurant, so that the project has nothing to do with school. Unfortunately, because of school, boys often have a bad idea of ​​reading, as they directly associate it with judging.

During this pleasant meeting, everyone’s impressions of the project are collected. The aim is also to document the observed changes in the sons and the possible improvements of the project. At the moment, the future teachers give the sons, as a gift, children’s works that are part of their preferences. The research team also issues a certificate recognizing participation in the project to sons, fathers (or other male figures) and future teachers.

Benefits of the project read with son

The project was experienced in Quebec, Pennsylvania and Ontario. According to the group interviews, the fallout was positive for all members of the male trios.

Initially, the sons seem to have developed a greater interest in reading, as they can read what really interests them. The sons also feel a greater sense of literacy after the project.

Second, father-child and family-school relationships evolve in a positive way. Fathers (or other male figures) seem to have understood the importance of their role as male reader role models for sons, that they can influence their child’s academic success, and that it is rewarding to read and interact with their son.

Third, the future teachers learned to work with diversified family situations and the importance of a good relationship with the parent. Finally, they understood the relevance of allowing boys to make their own reading choices and the impact of a male readership model.

read with son is therefore a simple and effective family literacy project that can be repeated in different countries and different languages ​​to develop the desire to read in boys.

Isabelle Carignan, professor, TELUQ University † Annie Roy-Charland, professor of psychology, University of Moncton† France Beauregard, associate professor of family-school relations, University of Sherbrooke † Joanie Viau, Supervisor, TELUQ University and Marie-Christine Beaudry, French didactics teacher, University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM)

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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