There is no biological reason why boys cannot do well at writing. There are plenty of boys who flourish in writing, and a wealth of male authors. There are also many girls who don’t love writing, so it’s important not to buy into stereotypes of what boys and girls can and can’t excel at. All children can thrive at writing. All children will thrive at writing if they are engaged in the process.
Keys to engaging boys (and all children) in writing:
Boys need to see the men they care about writing: Dads, uncles, grandparents, older brothers. Boys need to see men in their community, within their culture, and their heroes writing. Many a famous rugby or soccer player, music star, etc., plays sport and studies, writes and illustrates books. This information needs to be brought to the attention of our boys.
High expectations at home and school
Boys can write well, and enjoy doing so. Therefore, if the writing isn’t happening we need to think more creatively about the writing activities.
Observe our boys, and at early-childhood level, take the writing to where they are playing; at older levels, ensure writing activities are gender friendly. Examples can be:
- sticks in the sandpit or writing on the sand with sticks at the beach
- drawing maps; making signs for toy cars and train tracks
- going on treasure hunts to find clues and secret messages
- writing postcards to grandparents and family members
- getting family members to send postcards and letters to our children
- ‘writing’ with footprints
- writing with chalk, feathers dipped in ink, glitter pens, fingers, stamps …
- writing jokes, drawing cartoons and comics
Following the interests of each child, without being influenced by stereotypes
Pause, observe, consider. What does your young boy enjoy playing with that could have a connection to drawing and writing? Many boys (again, all children) I work with are inspired by:
- colour – when crayons are arranged in their favourite colours it can be highly motivating for some children
- natural materials – it’s fun to explore how a pine cone might make marks, a stick, a leaf, a sponge, an old brush
- being outside – write with chalk, paint and water on the fence, on concrete, on a large roll of paper or fabric on the grass
We need to make writing: Playful. Fun. Joyful. Creative. Inspiring. Engaging. Meaningful.
Extracted from Raise Your Child to Read and Write: A Guide for New Zealand Parents from Birth to Seven Years, by Frances Adlam (Potton & Burton $39.99)