Raising Boys Who Read

Lately, I’m feeling like I’m floundering in the mom department. I was on top of things when my job in shaping August’s character (like, 3 months ago) was teaching him to say “thank you” and nudging him to use “please” in an appropriate way. I was feeling proud in social situations when his sweet two year old self said “thank you” to the grown up in the room, without being coerced.

 

But tonight I’m recovering from a full day (Tuesday afternoon to Wednesday afternoon) with August’s little buddy Alton staying over while his parents celebrated a night away for their anniversary. Alton and August are sweet friends and I love watching them communicate and play together. But, my son is demanding. And stubborn. And rude. So far I’ve failed to teach him that yelling, “Come play, NOW!” at his friend who is obviously far more interested in the trains than in August’s game of the moment, is not the way to be a friend.

 

As I watched August in a close-up relationship with another kid, I felt a rising bile of fear in my throat. How am I going to teach him to be kind, to share but not be a pushover? Where’s the balance between forming a leader who serves others and forming a weakling who gives every toy away? How do I encourage August’s boyishness (his constant need to jump on the bed) and still teach him how to be appropriate with furniture (especially in other people’s homes)? This is not as simple as please and thank you.

 

One thing I did love seeing was August and Alton’s shared nerdiness when it comes to books. Alton’s family is about as bookish as we are (probably more…his dad works for a super cool national Lit journal). So he and August both have tendencies toward their books. Alton’s a little edgier. His favorite book is The Man Who Lost His Head. Enough said.

 

I loved watching them tear through the bookshelves and sit by themselves looking through books, leaving a mass of book bodies lying on top of each other. I was thinking about that when I came across this article from the Wall Street Journal titled “How to Raise Boys that Read.” (Shouldn’t it be boys who read? Just saying.) The article focuses on the growing problem among boys (from all socio-economic backgrounds) who are scoring ten points behind girls in reading proficiency. The culprit? What else: electronic media.

 

My son already knows how to clear my computer screen when the screen saver arrives mid-Skype chat. He regularly hits “play” on his cd player in his room when he goes in to play with toys. And he begs to watch TV any chance he can get.

 

I’m trying to lay down the media laws, but I know this is only the beginning of a difficult and hard won battle. We’re not going to be a family without a TV. So for us it has to be about balance. How are we going to teach our kids to value a Saturday afternoon of reading on the bed over a solitary and brain numbing game on the DS?  How are we going to feed the imagination of that little boy and his love for those beautiful cardboard-paged books?

 

These are just among the many parental questions I will probably never figure out. But I’d love for you to read the article and give me your thoughts. (Even you, person with no children: Did your parents give you any tools to feed your love for reading?)

Big Announcement: My Blog is Moving! (Like, right now.)
Enough: A Reflection on 2013
An Invitation to Make Space
An Invitation to Serve Anyway

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