This article is the sixth in a series that summarizes and reflects upon the Ontario Ministry of Education 2009 document Me Read? And How!
The sixth strategy advocated for improving boys’ reading:
Find Positive Role Models
When I first read this Me Read? And How! reading strategy “Find Positive Role Models,” I felt discouraged because living in a remote, northern community makes it quite difficult to bring authors into the school; however, upon further reading about the strategy, I realized that we ALL have these potential guest speaker role models in our neighborhoods! This strategy is not just about bringing real authors to your school, even though doing so is a great experience for students. This strategy is about showing boys that the men in their communities read for all different purposes and it’s worth it for them to be good readers too.
Since I’ve started teaching, at the high school level, there have been numerous retirements, and where there was an imbalance in the number of male to female teachers in the school, with there being a much higher ratio of males, there is now the opposite imbalance. Thus, there are aren’t as many male role models as there was before. Although the imbalance exists there are still male role models that can be highlighted within the school. For example, if there is a book club of some sort within your school, ask the male automotive teacher to lead a book discussion in the library. Create a display of your own staff READS posters using pictures of each staff member holding a favourite book.
Community mentors can be family members, like fathers, brothers, grandparents, uncles, and elders; businessmen of any sort; servicemen, like police officers, city workers, firemen and paremedics; athletes who support literacy; and, of course, male authors, illustrators, poets and artists.
Peer mentoring and tutoring within a school provides older role models who are successful readers helping their younger counterparts become good readers as well. In an elementary school, older readers could be paired with young readers (possibly with similar interests) to read to each. They can share what they are reading!
One great idea from the document: get high school athletes that are admired by younger boys who would also like to be high school athletes when they are older to mentor. This idea could be focused around a particular sport, like basketball, take place in a gym and involve some activity as well as reading together. The younger boys will want to emulate what they have seem in these boys who they respect.
If you have older boys who are considering struggling readers, they can still mentor younger readers who don’t have the same experience and practice reading. You could have your students write and illustrate stories; then go to a local elementary school and read them to the students. (Aside: I did this as a student and I still have the book that I created. I was humbled by one of the grade one boys who wrote, “I liked the pictures but the story was boring.”)
I plan to take some time to make a list of all the possible guest speakers I could bring into my classroom to talk to the class about their occupation, reading habits, and perspective on literacy.
Next Boys’ Literacy Strategy: #7 – Read Between the Lines