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Steve Theunissen

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A Precious Gift That Every Boy Needs
by Steve Theunissen   
Not "rated" by the Author.
Last edited: Monday, May 07, 2012
Posted: Monday, May 07, 2012

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Practical advice on how parent can switch their sons onto the reading habit.


The electronic age is thrusting all manner of electronic temptations in front of our kids 

these days. As diverse as these techno-marvels may be, they all seem to have one 

common element - they rely on, and in fact encourage, an ever decreasing attention span, 

coupled with a contracted and largely mono-syllabic vocabulary. As a teacher of middle 

school boys, I have become painfully aware of the result - they are no longer reading 

chapter books. The alternatives are just too enticing. With all those single letter options 

beckoning (x-box, i-tunes, e-tablet) the book just canʼt compete. 

Many boys only read  (or pretend to) when their teacher tells them to. They have 

associated reading with work - it is a chore rather than a pleasure and so they avoid it like 

the plague. 

The sad part about all of this is that our future leaders are being hardwired to reject 

anything that requires even a mild amount of sustained attention - itʼs the instant noodle 

society on steroids. And we all know what sort of a future thatʼs leading to. Somethingʼs 

gotta give. Well, guess what? That something is actually a someone -YOU. Yes,  it is up to 

you, dear parent, to give to your child the one gift that could make all the difference in the 

world to them. That gift is the love of reading. Here are 4 surefire ways to do just that: 

(1)Read to your Son. It doesnʼt matter if your child is 3 or 13, itʼs never too late to read to 

him. Choose a book thatʼs going to get his interest. Does you son love playing war 

games on his X-Box 360? Then go to the library and ask the librarian to help you find a 

sophisticated picture book with a war theme. Or if your kid says he wants to go to the 

movies to catch The Hunger Games, suggest that you read the first chapter together to 

see what itʼs about. When you read, give the message that this is an important and 

special time together by switching off the phone and TV. Read with enthusiasm and 

passion but donʼt make the session too long. Finish the reading at a cliff-hanger 

moment and leave your child wanting more. 

(2)Encourage participation and discuss what you read. Help your child to make 

connections between what you are reading and their own experiences. For example, in 

The Hunger Games, when Katniss offers up herself to save her sister, ask your son if he knows of any instances of such a thing happening in real life - this may lead to a 

discussion about the defense forces, fire-fighters or the police who risk their lives to 

save others on a daily basis. 

(3)Have a no TV or computer night where everyone reads their own book. Make a hot 

chocolate and have some snacks available so as to make it enjoyable. Make it obvious 

that you enjoy reading for your own pleasure. if your child is reluctant at first, start them 

off with an audio book that they listen to while following along in the print version. 

(4)Make use of graphic novels. When I was a kid I used to collect the Classics Illustrated 

series of comics which featured the comic version of famous stories. Well, the graphic 

novel is the same concept with a 21st Century make-over. They are very accessible for  

reluctant readers and Iʼll bet that your library has a whole shelf full of them. 

Reading opens up a whole new world to boys. For many, though, the door to that world is 

firmly shut. Itʼs up to you to prise it open and reveal the wonders that lie in store. Youʼll 

never regret the effort you took to do so. 

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