I just finished a book that should be a 'must read' for parents of boys. Swagger -by Lisa Bloom that left me both shocked and educated about specific things that a parent can do to improve the odds of success for their boys.
As a consummate reader from a very young age I never thought twice about not being able to read. Although I don't remember my parents - also voracious readers - reading to me out loud, sharing story books or even reading before bed - I do remember and still see them - now in their 80's reading almost constantly. We were a family that just always was busy reading something. Our days started with reading the cereal box, the milk carton, the morning newspaper, afternoons included reading magazines -for both work and pleasure, my grandparents always reading Reader's Digest, my mother reading lengthy bestselling novels, my father buried in the Sunday New York Times. I witnessed adults reading. Little did I realize the importance of just that. Of seeing adults enjoying the pleasure, valuing the experience, always learning something new.
Swagger reveals what has gone wrong in our culture with our boys. Lisa Bloom starts the first half of the book with chapters of detailed research, statistics and policies that are hurting our boys. The numbers are staggering and eye opening.
Our 'get tough on crime' has now removed so many men/boys from their families that their sense of belonging is stronger in prison than outside of it. We put them away for 5-10 years (the average sentence) and they still come out unable to read above a 4th grade level!
Back to reading -
what outraged me is that the real issue starts so early and no one seems to acknowledge it! We're quick to blame 'single mothers', divorce, drugs, teachers and parents but if the adults in a child's life aren't picking up that a boy can't read - who is responsible?
So I thought about it. . . How does a boy get away with not learning to read despite going through 8-12 years of school?? Also know that our country's BEST colleges offer 'remedial reading and math' classes to their students - so this is a real issue passed onto colleges too!
This book laid out very specific ways to improve the odds for your boy(s) - she also suggests mentoring, (I'm a long term advocate and Board member of Big Brothers/Big Sisters, monitoring music and TV diets, teaching humility rather than 'I'm a genius or the best' -surrounding them with the activity and love of reading and becoming aware of how 'swagger' and 'thug culture' is the 'new cool' that we need to understand and find antidotes to.
I'm still wondering how we can graduate kids from our schools who don't know how to read. I saw the reality of this in my agency work - the national statistic is that 23% cannot read above a 4th grade level. I would say that those I saw in treatment - at least 10% were - they had the answers and even actively participated but when you gave them worksheets to fill out they would find reasons, methods and excuses to not fill them out themselves. 40% of our workforce has limited skills. Yet we want jobs - jobs - jobs . . . but if a person can't read and fill out an application what good is job availability?
So please parents, educators, grandparents, siblings - if you see your young child struggling or excusing their reading limitations - speak up - get support and get help.
Ask at your local library - they want you reading - they will have the contacts you need.
Don't hesitate - don't be embarrassed - it's YOUR FUTURE - that will be a whole lot more interesting when you can read bank statements, medical prescription directions, contracts, legal documents, and write those resumes that will get them that great job!