Thursday, 26 November 2015

Why don’t our boys like reading? Waiarani Eruera

Teaching as Inquiry 2015

This term I conducted an inquiry into boys and literacy. There is already a lot of research in this area available, but in particular I am interested in literacy and its impact on Māori boys. It started with a question I asked a colleague; which was:

Why don’t our boys like reading?

This was due to seeing a lack of engagement in reading in class. Was it due to reading material not being engaging enough, or that i-pads were more interactive and interesting to use?

In my class there are currently seventeen boys. Out of this number, only two of them are active readers in class. Most of the boys did not see reading as something they would choose to do although many of them enjoyed the receptive side of listening to stories. Other activities like computer games and outside games were more popular than reading books. Also not many students were read to at bedtime or had access to books in the home.

My idea was to ask teachers in the middle and senior years’ learning community if there were any boys that wanted to come read to our class. In doing so, the younger boys would see older boys modelling reading. I deliberately targeted older siblings of my students knowing that their younger brothers or sisters would enjoy this. Also, readers could choose their own books to read to us or read from a selection of books we already had in our classroom.

The response from the older students was slow at first and I did have to speak with some individually to encourage them to come read to our class. In the end six volunteers agreed to come read to us; with a couple of the boys becoming regular readers to the class.

What happened?
The response from our class was very positive. They enjoyed being read to by older students. No one questioned why it was only boys that came to read to the class. One student, on being told that a student was coming in to read to them commented, “Does he like reading?” Obviously prior to this, some students hadn’t even considered that the older boys might actually enjoy reading. Reading for enjoyment wasn’t something that the younger students associated with the older boys, nor did they see it as a life skill that would help them beyond school.

Impact on Students
While the older students are still continuing to come read to my class, I don’t believe the timeframe has been long enough to see what impact, if any, this inquiry has had on our learning programme. However it has highlighted the following:

That the boys (and girls) respond positively to having the older students come read to them.
·      That reading can be a leisure activity; not something always associated with schoolwork and;
·      That the benefits are mutual in that the older boys enjoy coming to read to EYLC and gain confidence in reading to others.

In reflecting on this inquiry, I have thought about what changes I need to make in my teaching practice.

The first is continuing to have older students come read to our class; even having our own students read or younger readers from the Foundation class coming read to us as well.

Secondly, I would include, within the current programme, time for students to read for enjoyment. In their current reading programme my students are carrying out their own inquiries; however making time for them to read something they have selected purely for enjoyment whether digital stories or books sends a strong message about reading.

In the past there has been criticism about using reading as a form of behaviour management by settling the class down as they come in from breaks. Here the focus is on settling the class rather than encouraging reading for enjoyment. I’ve done this myself when I started teaching.

However there are ways around this – from when you run your reading programme to doing something else after a break to settle the class. For example, our reading starts after a morning meeting so my groups start with their reading inquiries straight away. I would trial students choosing a ten-minute slot at any stage within the programme to read something they enjoy. Whether that’s the same book they are using in their inquiry or something different doesn’t matter. The main thing is that they are learning that reading can have specific purposes; to find out information, or to simply enjoy oneself.

In conclusion, my inquiry will continue for the remainder of the term and I will hopefully be able to put things in place for next year.

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