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 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.