Recently I’ve been busy with the wide reading program in the library which has made me consider the importance of the Reading Rules, in particular: No.3 Read to them, No. 5 Don’t be a snob and No. 6 Loosen your filter.
The catalyst has been a short story which I have chosen to read to the boys during the lesson. It is called The Incident and is an old favourite of mine, from Andrew Daddo’s 2002 book Sprung. The Incident is a story about two very naughty little boys who test the veracity of a helmet supposedly once owned by Luke Skywalker. The problem is that they test the helmet’s strength by dropping a brick on it – while the family dog is in it.
This incident is after the story opens with the boys already being in serious trouble – for drinking urine. They also have a distinct problem with honesty and telling the truth to their parents.
Having said all this, the story is written in such a way that the reader (or in my lesson the listener) knows that it is a humorous story and is intended purely to entertain. And it entertains in bucketloads. The boys have gasped, giggled and laughed out loud during this story and have even given applause at the end – a high compliment for high school boys at the end of a lesson.
There are many boys in my lessons who began the year saying they did not enjoy reading or indeed did not enjoy anything much at all about books. But by reading to them and loosening my filter to read something that many teachers would think lacks literary merit (or any merit at all), I am teaching the boys that reading can be fun. And at no point in the lesson has there has been any literary snobbery at all.
I see the results of my efforts in the wide reading program on a daily basis. Not only are the borrowing figures of the boys sky high (1,000 more books borrowed than at this time last year), yesterday I saw two boys who have previously wandered aimlessly around the library actually sitting down engrossed in their books: one was reading I am Number Four, another The Power of Six – both books I have read and promoted to the boys in wide reading lessons.
Everything I do to encourage reading comes back to the core rules and they really do work. There is nothing more satisfying to me than seeing a reluctant reader with a book in hand and enjoying the experience. The Reading Rules really do work, especially if you remember Rule No. 10 – don’t give up.