Note: While this article is aimed at literacy for Latino and Hispanic boys, we at Red Apple Reading believe the tips provided can be helpful for any child, regardless of gender or race.
Guest Post by Michael Gurian
Hispanic and Latino boys struggle with English literacy in greater proportion than many other demographic groups in the United States. While what works for all boys can work for Hispanic and Latino boys, try adding these practical steps as well.
1. Teach Both Languages. If you are a bilingual family, teach your son both languages from birth onward. The more he learns any language, the more literate he is likely to be in both languages, because any language learning increases the use of language and word centers in the brain.
2. Read With Him at Least 30 Minutes a Day. From the beginning of your son’s life, read to him 30 minutes a day at least five days a week. When he is able, have him read to you aloud. If he becomes frustrated in one language, move to a book or magazine in the other, more comfortable language before trying again. It’s most important that he is reading and hearing words read in each language.
3. Engage Dads and Male Mentors. Help Dad spend time reading with your son, and help your son find other male mentors who will read with him. Bonding with dad and male mentors around literacy will increase your son’s excitement and decrease his sense that reading is not “cool” or is something that just girls do. Encourage him to read Boys’ Life magazine, which features stories about great men who have also been great readers.
4. Use Oral Traditions and Storytelling. Connect reading to oral traditions like singing and storytelling. Have your young son make up rhymes (or other rap-type poems) as you and he talk and banter. Have him read things aloud to you in a singsong voice. If he is having trouble reading, move to spoken words and music for as long as needed.
5. Use Literacy for Bonding. Use reading as a ritualized way of developing family closeness. Remember that reading to your son and being read to is not just about literacy but also about sharing and feeling the love that comes from the closeness of the book.
6. Connect Words to Pictures. Point to the picture in a book or magazine and ask your son for the vocabulary words for that picture. Ask your son to talk about the action in the picture. Often, the male brain needs pictures to remember sensory details and vocabulary best.
7. Use Drama and Role-Play. When you and your son read aloud, dramatize and play-act what you are reading. Help your son pretend he is one of the characters in the story, and have him read aloud as that character. This can work with boys of all ages. If your son has to study Hamlet, have him act it out with your family rather than reading alone.
8. Ask a Lot of Questions. Everywhere you go, engage your son verbally. Ask questions and receive answers, either in writing or spoken. Stop the DVD in the middle of movie night and ask your son questions about what is happening. Ask him to guess what might come next. Try emailing your son questions and asking him to respond via email. You can assess your child’s literacy needs by taking a short quiz from the Gurian Institute.
9. Physical Movement and Drawing. Let your son move around or squeeze or toss objects while reading. Have drawing paper around so that your son can draw while you read to him and/or draw what you are reading aloud. Movement and drawing activate centers of the brain that help with vocabulary retention and memory.
10. Become an Advocate. Advocate in your son’s school for teacher training in how boys and girls learn differently. Many teachers have not been trained in how boys learn, especially in areas of verbal learning and literacy.
Boys’ Life magazine is written for them and can assist a boy’s literacy level and encourage a love of reading. To review sample articles that would interest your child, visit boyslife.org/literacy/.
Copyright Michael Gurian 2013