This article is the second in a series that summarizes and reflects upon the Ontario Ministry of Education 2009 document Me Read? And How!
The second strategy advocated for improving boys’ literacy:
Help Make It A Habit
Making reading a habit involves providing frequent opportunities to read and write. In elementary classrooms, the teachers have an idea of how much reading and writing their students are doing as a whole since they are with them most of the day; however, in the high school classroom, a student has four teachers (a semester) and not all their courses will be academically based, so I believe it’s important for students to be reading and writing in content courses as well as language courses, especially since they will only have English in one semester. Literacy in the content areas is SO very important!
Creating a culture of literacy in your school is paramount.
5 Ways to Make Reading a Habit:
- Provide for regular, uninterrupted reading and writing periods in your classroom or school—Time should be scheduled for daily literacy instruction and individual reading. Students should be reading for at least 2-3 hours a week in a quiet space that is free of distractions. In one pilot project, it was noted that “Frequent opportunities to read and write for a wide variety of purposes and audiences led to increased enthusiasm and interest among boys” (17).
- Model good reading and writing practices—ALL staff stop and read during school reading periods. English and content area teachers, teach literacy. In all subjects, not just English, connection must be made between reading and writing. In the content areas, as well as English, teachers should have students study the conventions of different texts; they need to experience different forms of texts (fiction and non-fiction) to see the PURPOSE in the reading/writing. The three main essential critical thinking skills students need: summarizing, “identifying features of non-fiction text,” and “finding supporting details” (16). All content teachers should be teaching students to use graphical organizers! Teachers should also use a variety of response strategies with students: rapid writing journals, reading response journals, book-boasts, current event presentations on non-fiction, rapid read and react, talk with peers in small groups, and readers’ theatre presentations.
- Make your classroom or library reading area a more welcoming environment for boys—Create a boys’ corner that is comfortable and inviting; it should have pictures of boys reading and/or wall murals of topics that are of interest to boys. The school library should have displays of magazines, non-fiction, and contemporary/popular literature.
- Use artefacts to give boys a physical reminder of strategies or a physical way to track their reading progress—Students can create their own reading strategies bookmarks; I have a pre-made one that I gave one of my classes with the following reminders: visualize, questions, clarify, predict, and summarize. Other reminders suggested by the document for the bookmark are making connections, identifying text features, and identifying the main idea of the text. Reading logs and progress charts can also be used individually or as a class.
- Have a school-wide literacy focus—I believe it’s easier to achieve in elementary schools, but it’s important in high schools as well. According to Me Read? And How!, one school saw improvement in literacy after making “an effort to showcase posters, contests, book raffles, and displays of writing portfolios or culminating literacy activities” (15). Another school instituted reading buddies, an older student and a younger student, who read to each other and asked each other questions about it. Get involved in the Forest of Reading project of the Ontario Library Association. Students read the books in a category, for instance high school students read the ‘White Pines’ selections, and then vote for their favourite.
Next Boys’ Literacy Strategy: #3 – Teach With Purpose