Boy-Responsive Literacy Specialist. Author. Speaker. Blogger.
Hi, I'm Hillary Tubin, M.S.Ed | NBCT Early Adolescence/ELA and Best Selling Author of Boys and Books, for parents of 9- to 14-year-old boys who resist reading, with over 20 years of experience as an educator and presenter/trainer/facilitator in the field of reading.
There was a time early in my teaching career when I was clueless about the needs of pre- and early adolescent boys who resisted reading. I truly believed that if I provided time for self-directed reading in school, access to books and choice in reading material, like magic, boys would be so happy and appreciative, they’d just hunker down every day and do it, with a smile, of course.
Yeah, well not so much.
Instead of self-directed reading happening, boys wandered around my classroom library aimlessly searching for books which they should have already chosen. Eventually, I’d lose patience, send them back to their seats with a book selected by me and demand they read it, morphing from a cheerleader to a referee. Of course, that didn’t happen, but staring at the ceiling, their shoes, their friend’s shoes or the clock did, and that's when my commentator personality joined in too.
Girls, on the other hand, were happy, appreciative, hunkering down every day with books - even those who didn’t like to read – and widening the gender reading-achievement gap right before my eyes.
As much as I wanted boys to become self-directed readers and thrive, my approach missed the mark in fundamental ways for them that I couldn’t see from where I stood.
Learning How to Think Like a Coach
I didn’t truly understand what wasn’t working for boys until they started inviting me to after school and weekend soccer and basketball games. Week after week, I watched them come to life on the field and court. At every game I attended, those same boys who searched aimlessly for a book during reading time were prepared and ready to play the game for their coach as soon as they showed up.
When asked why that was so, they could tell me exactly what their coaches expected and why. If someone asked them those same questions during self-directed reading time in my class, they’d say, "Huh? What?"
What inspired me the most was watching the boys interact with their coaches on and off the field and court. The same boys who stared at me blankly during reading time met their coach’s instructions, demands, expectations and feedback with rapt attention, respect, and responsiveness. It was clear they felt their coaches cared and that they were all working together towards a common goal; they all had skin in the game, and I wanted that for reading too.
I questioned their coaches on how I might fix my reading struggles with the boys. What they shared, and what the boys confirmed, messed with my head at first, but then it made all the sense in the world.
In a nutshell, they told me:
Ouch. No wonder boys weren’t reading for pleasure and developing the daily reading habit. The environment I created lacked the routine, structure, expectations, and consistency they needed to succeed. There was no time for practice. There was no modeling and specific feedback. There was calling out for not following through, but not couched in why I believed in them and expected them to step up, knew they could step up.
I had missed the mark. I didn't think like a coach.
Boys and Skin in the Reading Game
By acting more like a cheerleader, referee, and commentator all rolled into one, I actually demotivated my boys and undermined the daily reading habit. I knew I had to do something different, not the boys, if I truly believed they deserved to have skin in the reading game, and thrive, not just survive, academically and in life.
So, my burning question became:
What does it take to be the reading-habit coach boys need to read?
I knew what it took to be a good reading teacher at school, and as long as I wasn’t asking boys to read for pleasure, they did what I asked. But they weren’t invested in the reading game like they needed to be to thrive, not just survive. It wasn’t that they weren’t smart or couldn’t do it, they just weren’t motivated to read without a struggle. But the more the girls read during the school day and at home, the more the boys fell behind.
That’s when I realized I couldn’t do it alone; the daily reading habit had to be initiated at home with their parents. I knew that if I taught school reading (foundational, standardized and mandatory) and at home boys read for pleasure 30 minutes a day, they’d catch up with the girls and both genders would gain reading’s benefits and thrive.
Through years of trial and error, research, and working with boys and their parents, I discovered the 10 Building Blocks that can turn anyone into a reading-habit coach for pre- and early-adolescent boys who resist reading and developed a 90-day reading-habit blueprint that transformed over 350 boys into readers.
Today, I’ve turned the 10 Building Blocks into the Amazon bestseller, Boys and Books, and gamified the transformative 90-day home-reading-habit blueprint into a coaching guide for parents and a playbook for boys who resist reading.
With all my heart I believe and know boys will read because I’ve seen it happen time and time again. My hope is to assist you on your journey of becoming the coach your son needs to read so he can thrive, not just survive, academically and in life. I’m excited and ready to show you how.