Bid to enthuse boys about books

1st January 2010 at 00:00
National Year of Reading schemes find selection is critical to holding their interest

Original paper headline: Turning over a new leaf in bid to enthuse boys about books

It may seem like a statement of the blindingly obvious, but a pound;10 million programme has shown that the way to encourage boys to read is to stock books they like and then set up activities that get them reading.

As part of the National Year of Reading, the Government launched two programmes on promoting reading for pleasure - Boys Into Books for primary schools and Book Ahead for three to five-year-olds.

Boys Into Books, which reached more than 13,000 schools, involved strengthening links between primaries and local libraries, with books chosen to appeal to boys delivered to schools. Activities such as author visits, storytelling sessions and reading groups were also set up.

At St Cuthbert with St Matthias Primary in Earls Court, London, all 14 Year 5 boys took part in the scheme last school year.

Anne Evans, their teacher, said: "Originally they just didn't engage with books: they found them frustrating. A lot of it was to do with choosing books. We found a lot of them were selecting ones that were too hard, way above their level - they had just liked the cover.

"One activity we did well was going to the library. Boys were asked to choose books that they liked and a range for other children. The library bought about 100 of those books. They liked Tin Tin, Asterix, Michael Morpurgo's books and the Captain Underpants ones.

"The big thing was that the events were organised by the library. For the children, someone different coming in, or for them to go to the library four or five times, got them more engaged. Before the scheme started, we asked where they got books from and it was amazing how few went to the library; many had never been at all. Now they are all members."

An evaluation by research consultants ERS for the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council found that although teachers felt they had the skills to teach reading, working with library staff helped them by putting stronger focus on asking boys what they want to read and helping increase their awareness of a broader range of books.

It stressed that although introducing new books captured boys' imagination, this alone was not sufficient to encourage reading. In Barnsley, for example, a boys' book club was set up with 10 Year 5 pupils. In Shropshire, the library service ran Dads and Lads sessions for Year 6 boys in schools.

Boys do less well, on average, in reading and writing than girls. At age 11, 85 per cent of girls reach the expected level in English compared to 75 per cent of boys.

The main aim of the programme was to promote reading for pleasure. But it is also hoped that if boys enjoy reading literacy skills will improve.

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