Although the call for family reading is intended to ensure an increase in the culture of reading, nationwide, boys could be the greatest beneficiaries. Naturally, the benefits of reading for pleasure are for the ones who make time to read. What it means is that the more one reads the more one acquires the benefits of reading.
Thus, if girls are deemed to be avid readers, then, automatically, girls will be the greatest beneficiaries of doing more reading, especially when they read for the purposes of recreation and information. In the same vein, if boys are deemed to be bad readers, it is obvious that they would receive less of the benefits of reading. The subject of interest is, thus, about how boys will take more delight in reading for pleasure as girls do.
It is a truism that girls have the propensity for reading. That however cannot be said of boys. Boys are always seen to be lagging behind girls on the subject of the ability to read, right from infancy and in the basic schools. Because of some of these difficulties, reading has almost become the preserve of girls. It is therefore normal to hear people give reading a feminine image.
This situation of boys not showing much desire for reading has always been a headache to many teachers at the basic schools and for many parents. This is because helping boys to read at this level is always difficult, as many boys do not show much desire in reading or to cultivate the habit of reading.
As we all get to know the importance of reading, it is important that we change the status quo where the art of reading is seen as the preserve of the female. It is believed that the notion that reading is more feminine is more associated with boys than girls (Reading Monitor, 2020). Clark, Torsi and Strong (2005) cited in Reading Monitor (2020) posits that the stronger boys agree with this notion the less they enjoy reading. In the same vein Sokal, Katz, Akins, Gladu, Jackson-Davis and Kussin (2005) cited in Reading Monitor (2020) sees the problem as making boys less motivated to read.
Thankfully, the concept of family reading has a solution to help make reading a preserve of all (all school children) and not limited to only females. Family reading comprises the father, mother (guardians) and the children coming together to read. Boys, especially those who see reading as feminine in nature, benefit greatly from this exercise when fathers read. Reading Monitor (2020) explains that fathers who set a positive example of reading impact greatly on the reading behaviour of boys, in particular. Mulan (2010) cited in Reading Monitor (2020) also puts how fathers impact their sons on the subject of reading, beautifully, as this: “While a mother who can regularly be seen with a book mainly stimulates the reading behaviour of a daughter, a father who reads is able to encourage his son, in particular, to read”.
Apart from the notion of reading being more associated with girls than boys, there are other factors that hinder the reading behaviour of boys. However, a family’s role and support, with the father active, will be enough to get boys to read and cultivate a lifelong reading habit. This is because behaviours are formed by what people learn or observe from the environment. Therefore, any environment that offers people, especially children, to learn a desirable behaviour such as cultivating the habit of reading, is much appreciated and sufficient to develop the interest of boys for lifelong reading.
Fathers are thus encouraged to take active role during family reading sessions owing to the enormity of the impact they make on children during such reading sessions. Duursma (2011) and Duursma (2014) as cited in Reading Monitor (2020), shows “a positive correlation between the frequency of a father’s reading aloud and their children’s language proficiency, knowledge of books and understanding of the story”. To get more children to read, especially boys, fathers ought to intentionally and consciously sacrifice some of their busy schedules to read to serve as a good example to children, especially those who do not like reading.
The role of a father in contributing to the reading behaviours of children, especially boys, underpins the common notion that the responsibility to equip children to cultivate a lifelong reading habit is the work of the whole society. In this case, even as Ghana Book Development Council (GBDC), canvasses for family reading, it also calls on all fathers to take active role in all efforts toward making sure that children of all growing ages cultivate the habit of reading. That, beyond the school, there is a home built to nurture children to read and also cultivate the habit of reading. That, because of a father’s role, no one lags behind in the quest to make the culture of reading a part of every society.
The writer is the Literacy Promotion Manager, Ghana Book Development Council