Jump-Starting Boys by Pam Withers and Cynthia Gill is a book to “help your reluctant learner find success in school and life” with “hundreds of encouraging tips and tools” according to the title. However, the book is much more than that. The book takes an in-depth look at why we are in the midst of a trend of underachievement in boys after years of girls lagging behind academically, including physical, social, and technological factors. The authors don’t begrudge girls the new opportunities that have been afforded them. They do point out though that this divergent performance gap can lead to big trouble down the road citing studies that reveal that when a man works less than his wife, the couple is more likely to experience marital conflict. Even worse, men who are economically dependent on their wives are more likely to cheat on them whereas wives who are economically dependent on their husbands are less likely to cheat. In addition, reluctant readers run a higher risk of having disciplinary problems in school, becoming antisocial, and underachieving throughout their lifetimes.
I work in a first grade classroom with its fair share of reluctant readers, most of whom are boys. My job is to work with them one-on-one to improve their reading skills. I was surprised at how well Jump-Starting Boys pinpointed all of the contributing factors that have led to these boys’ struggles with reading and writing. While I found this fascinating, what really mattered to me was how to help them improve. While Jump-Starting Boys is written for parents, the advice worked just as well for me with my students. Some suggestions I was able to implement at school were to encourage dramatization in reading and writing, provide opportunities to work out physical energy and then refocusing on the assignment, use games to encourage competition, change my tone of voice to calm rather than rile up the boys and let them reread pages over and over again to improve word recognition and fluency.
I can’t possibly summarize all of the wonderful advice in Jump-Starting Boys in just a few short paragraphs. Every single page contains important information for any parent (even those who only have girls) and smart, practical suggestions on what you can do to help your child. Some of my favorite tips were establishing reading buddies and establishing positive male role models, but these are just two of literally hundreds of tips in the book.
In my opinion, this book is a must-read for every parent and an informative read for non-parents who are concerned about the future of our society. Withers and Gill do a great job of extrapolating the trend of male underachievement to the future and it should startle everyone into taking action before it’s too late.
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