Improving Boys' Reading

Improving Boys' Reading in the Secondary School – An initiative by the Calrossy PDHPE Department

One of the benefits of Calrossy’s Diamond Model is that our teachers can target interventions aimed at increasing student participation and self-confidence. Our 7-9 boys grow in confidence in all-male classrooms as they are able to mature at their own rate, without feeling intimidated by the girls who tend to be more articulate at an earlier stage.

During the past year the PDHPE Department have introduced an initiative aimed at increasing the take up and enjoyment of boys' reading. Mr Conrad Starr initiated a program aimed to increase boys' reading offered to both elective Yr 9 and Yr 10 PASS (Physical Activity And Sports Studies) classes.

Professional development of teachers at Calrossy presented them with evidence that suggests there is a clear correlation with reading proficiency and the acquisition of vocabulary, oracy and writing. Put simply, the more one reads the greater the benefit is for verbal and written expression of knowledge. An increased ability to express and use knowledge will open doors to career opportunities beyond the school gates. 

In response to this professional development Mr Starr suggested that the department find relevant and targeted books that could be read and discussed during class time that included a range of narratives (autobiographies, biographies and memoirs) aimed at teaching the boys vital life lessons. These life lessons learnt through the example of sport stories afforded opportunities for students to be challenged, connected and extended in their thinking. All of this had the dual purpose of increasing the boy’s literacy levels and in raising their self-awareness so that they may be inspired to discover what they are capable of achieving.

Books chosen for the 2018-2019 reading course in PASS were:

“Born to Run Christopher McDougall” – Cultural link and sports science links

“Legacy: What the All Blacks can teach us about the business of life” James Kerr

‘’Relentless: From good to great to unstoppable” Tim Grover

Mr Starr models the reading of these books by choosing to read with the class so that they see him doing it as well, thereby reinforcing the inherent value of reading. Feedback from the classes has been positive. The students borrow the book and take it home, read in class, and discuss collaboratively at completion with written and verbal reflection. 

As teachers, it is our job to broaden horizons and support young people to escape the limitations of their own experience. This view is backed up by the book ‘Successful Single Sex Classrooms’ written by Michael Gurian, Katie Stevens and Peggie Daniels) suggesting that boys prefer texts which have, “characters they can identify with in terms of what they themselves like to do or hope to become.”

If we make reading great literature a habit – by reading daily and discussing their ideas – we help them to see the merits of reading. Reading is not just about reading what you enjoy: it’s about expanding your world and being brave.

Mr Rob Marchetto

Former Director of Quality Teaching and Learning