By Isabelle Carignan, TELUQ University ; Annie Roy-Charland, University of Moncton; France Beauregard, University of Sherbrooke ; Joanie Viau, TELUQ University , and Marie-Christine Beaudry, University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM)
We often hear that boys do not read or do not like to read. Boys do read, but not necessarily what the school environment suggests; boys will prefer to read documentaries, comic books or magazines, for example. This is why it is important for them to be able to choose the books they want to read and to vary the choices offered.
We are a group of multidisciplinary researchers interested in literacy, learning disabilities, family-school-community relationships and psychology. Literacy as a whole includes reading, writing, oral proficiency and many other variables such as values and culture.
Importance of a male role model for fistoons
The lack of a "positive" male role model for reading may explain why boys are less likely to read and may have negative perceptions of reading. Including the family in a literacy project, in a non-school setting, may influence students' perceptions of reading and develop their desire to read.
Some scientific studies show that by including fathers in family literacy programs, a positive influence emerges on children's literacy development, especially for boys. The family literacy is to develop reading skills in the home environment. With this in mind, we created the Reading with my son in 2008. Since then, 30 male trios have been created, but with the pandemic, this mode of operation was no longer possible.
This family literacy project promotes the creation of male trios (dad, son and teacher candidate) who share reading time at home.
The goal of the project is to start from the reading interests of the son who has difficulty reading, or lacks motivation (8-9 years old), to develop his desire to read. Why at this age? Because this is the time when the gap between good readers and struggling readers widens.
The future teacher comes to the family environment on a voluntary basis with his bag of children's books, of different literary genres, related to the son's interests. The son is the leader: as master of the trio, he decides what will be read during the meetings. With Reading with my son, the 10 rights of the reader of the author Daniel PennacThese rights are contrary to what is generally advocated in schools. These rights go against what is generally advocated in the school environment:
- The right not to read
- The right to skip pages
- The right not to finish a book
- The right to reread
- The right to read anything
- The right to bovarianism (to dream!)
- The right to read anywhere
- The right to grapple
- The right to read aloud
- The right to remain silent
As adults, we allow ourselves all these rights.
In school, students are often required to read works that do not interest them. They must finish them and they must not skip pages. When they are older, around the middle of elementary school, they are often told that real reading is reading novelsThis is completely false. For example, reading a comic is extremely rich and complex. A real comic book reader reads the text and the illustration in each box, in interaction, to grasp all the subtleties. The same goes for the album (picture book): the text and the illustrations form a rich and inseparable whole for all ages. And often, the illustrations "speak" more than the text.
Course of the project
First meeting between all participants
This meeting normally takes place at the school with the principal, the remedial teacher (if applicable), the teacher, the male parents, the prospective teachers, the fistula and the researchers. At this time, questions are asked, roles are determined and trios are formed. The male trios exchange contact information and agree on a time and place (home or elsewhere) for a first trio meeting, depending on each person's availability.
Note that the fistons are told that they have been "chosen" to experience a reading project with their dad (or any other significant male figure).
Men's trios meetings
The method of operation is free and no preparation on the part of the parent or child is necessary before or after the meetings. The duration of each meeting varies between 45 minutes and two hours.
At the beginning of the project, the male trios met in the home setting every two weeks for an hour or two over a four-month period. We now recommend that the project run throughout the school year to allow for greater flexibility. In addition, a minimum of three meetings was initially planned; we now recommend between 6 and 8 meetings to encourage the creation of a positive dynamic and a relationship of trust within the trios.
In this egalitarian relationship, each member of the trio has a determined role:
- the son chooses what will be read - or not - and decides how each meeting will take place;
- the future teacher, as a resource person, brings in a variety of children's books related to the child's interests and follows the child's reading choices;
- the father (or other significant male figure) participates in the reading of the works chosen by the son and guides the future teacher so that he understands his child's reading interests.
Last meeting between all participants
All participants meet at a restaurant, for example, so that the project is not associated with school. Unfortunately, boys often have a poor perception of reading because of school, as they associate it directly with assessment.
During this friendly meeting, everyone's impressions of the project are collected. The goal is also to document changes in the fist children and possible improvements to the project. At this time, the future teachers give the fist children a gift of children's books that are part of their preferences. The research team also gives a certificate to fistons, fathers (or other male figures) and future teachers acknowledging their participation in the project.
Positive impact of the project Reading with my son
Initially, the fistons seem to have developed a greater interest in reading because they can read what really interests them. Fistons also feel a greater sense of competence in reading after the project.
Second, father-child and family-school relationships are changing in a positive way. Dads (or other male figures) seem to have realized how important their role as a male reader role model for their son is, that they can have an influence on their child's academic success, and that it is rewarding to read and interact with their son.
In the third stage, the future teachers learned how to work with diverse family situations and the importance of establishing a good connection with the parent. Finally, they understood the relevance of allowing boys to make their own reading choices and the impact of a male reader model.
Reading with my son is therefore a simple and effective family literacy project that could be replicated in different countries and languages to develop boys' desire to read.
By Isabelle CarignanFull Professor, TELUQ University ; Annie Roy-CharlandProfessor of Psychology, University of Moncton; France BeauregardAssociate Professor of Family-School-Community Relations, University of Sherbrooke ; Joanie ViauManager, TELUQ University , and Marie-Christine BeaudryProfessor of French didactics, University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM)