How Do You Encourage Your #BrownBoyGenius to Read?

By on Apr 20, 2015 in Books, Education, Life | 2 comments

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Let’s face it, some boys just don’t like to read. As a former English teacher and current writer, I dreamed of my son following my footsteps and falling in love with the written word, but when I told me he hated to read I felt like I failed as a parent.

Le Kid loves reading about Minecraft.

Le Kid loves reading about Minecraft.

I mean, my child hates to read? As if!

After getting over my initial shock, I listened to what my son was actually saying. He hated to read because it was hard for him (and so many other boys), but he still loved hearing stories. So I read, and read, and read and kept on buying books I thought might interest him until one day he uttered the words that made me super happy: I’m a reader! 

Recently I saw a tweet about a program that encourages boys to fall in love with reading by putting in reading nooks in barbershops around New York City. It sounded pretty awesome, so I reached out to the founder of Barbershop Books for my TakePart column.

Alvin Irby, a former elementary school teacher and current grad student, shared the inspiration for Barbershop Books and where he hopes to take the program in the future.

Irby says the idea came to him after he watched one of his first grade students stare aimlessly out of a barbershop window while he waited for a trim.

“I wished I had a book I could give him so he could practice his reading,” Irby remembers, explaining that the young man also needed to improve his literacy skills, a challenge that plagues far too many boys.

Read the entire article on the TakePart site.

Irby initially funded Barbershop Books out of his own pocket, but he recently won a $5000 grant for the program from the Fels Public Policy Challenge Competition. He also relies on donations. The reading stations are currently housed in six shops spread across Harlem and Brooklyn, but Irby hopes to expand to 25 by the end of the year.

Encouraging reading and helping our boys develop competent literacy skills is integral to their success. The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading breaks down why making sure boys are proficient by the 3rd grade is so important.

Mastering reading by the end of third grade is essential for school success since students begin to transition at that point from learning to read to reading to learn. Those who do not hit the proficiency mark by then are four times more likely to drop out of high school, research shows. Among those who do not read well, the dropout rates are twice as high for African-American and Hispanic students as they are for white students.

White male students are three times more likely to be reading proficiently in the fourth grade than their African-American peers and more than twice as likely as Hispanic boys, according to a data analysis by the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT Data Center.  The statistics are even more startling for children of color from low-income families, with just 10 percent of the African-American boys and 14 percent of Hispanic boys reading proficiently, compared to 25 percent for their white peers.

So how can we encourage boys of color to fall in love with reading? According to Irby, it’s all about access and finding books they’ll love.

“If children have easy access to books, they’re much more likely to read for fun. If the books are interesting and engaging, they’re more likely to keep reading and read again. The more children read for fun, the better they become at reading,” he said.

How do you encourage your BrownBoyGenius to love reading? Share your tips in the comments section! 

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  1. I began reading to my 22 month old son when he was only 2-3 months old, reading slowly and pointing to each word I read. It created an early interest in reading and even now, he will go and get a book, hand it to me and even before I can adjust myself, plant his lil diapered butt in my lap, awaiting our start. I am hoping this will begin a lifelong love of reading and I plan to buy and read him every book I can. Love the blog BTW!

  2. Kim R.

    August 25, 2015

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    I encouraged my son to read by going to the library and joining their summer reading club. From there, it was only a matter of time before he started requesting books to read. I also had him get his own library card. Now, whenever he checks out a book that he really likes, he doesn’t want me to return it until we actually buy the book. That made me the happiest mom, but also made me have to search for deals. Sometimes I find them, but other times I end up buying them new, which is fine. As long as he is reading and loves it. We also have recently added the Reading Rainbow app. If you remember the show as a child (I loved this show with Levar Burton), then you’ll enjoy the app. It has tons of books that you can “check out” for different subscription rates. It also had videos that they call video field trips where the kids learn something fun and exciting on different topics.

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