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Engaging Cub Scouts in Reading

I have a number of Cub Scouts who frankly are not reading their books at all. They have no idea of the requirements to complete their rank and the books collect dust on their tables until it’s time to sign-off on them. So I am thinking about having Scouts do small book reports on their handbooks and requirements and asking them questions about Requirement 1a in the Outdoorsman Adventure. Reading is an important skill and many of my Scouts read at below grade level and am wondering if anyone has tried anything like this to get kids reading something they might actually enjoy.

I’d skip the book reports, and just ask them what they thought about the stuff they read. Some may consider asking for a book report as adding a requirement to the Scout’s advancement, which is prohibited.

Aside from that, if you have a child that doesn’t like to read (for whatever reason), asking them to write about what they read is not going to encourage reading; it’s going to make Cub Scouts feel like another school class.

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Maybe you can have your Scouts work on this:

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True - could feel more like homework. I have Scouts, essentially all of them, and not one of them have opened the books really outside of the meetings. They rely completely on meetings to complete all requirements. I thought about gamifying the content. We played Bobcat Bingo a couple of weeks back and kids had to get 5 Bobcat concepts in a row to win. And then we played Cub Scout Jeopardy and the kids had to answer in the form of a question e.g. Not to be rude, it’s the 6th Scout Law and the answer is “What is Kind?” Most of the Scouts still after 2 years do not know the Scout Oath or Laws despite reciting it weekly. Have to think about this some more. I do a lot more work with Webelos. For Outdoorsman they are putting together a plan for an outing (Option B) but I am approving the outing so we do not get “let’s go to BestBuy” and then we have Patrol Campout Plan document for the Troop and I shared it with them asking them to complete it. Matches up with Outdoorsman and Cast Iron Chef.

Look in the book and find something cool - and point it out - maybe a trick in it or a hack. Then say there is a ton of stuff like that in here.

But reading the book is not required

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Son #2 began to read because he got tired of Son #1 beating him at Zelda. He got online and started reading game FAQs. From there, he started picking up books especially comic fiction and later plays and song lyrics and the Bible (that last one repeatedly as life started hitting hard). Now, even in Engineering school, he has some leisure reading in his free time, including taking a class on dramatic writing. Still, I’m not entirely sure of how much of any handbook he actually ever read!

But let me spell something out that may come as a shock: It’s okay if a scout does not make rank. You can go into you Bear year without a Wolf patch. You can go into Webelos without Wolf or Bear. You can join scouts without your Arrow of Light. So, if there’s a year when a scout isn’t picking up his book and not trying to knock out that rank, don’t worry. Encourage that kid to come have fun with the rest of the boys who are reading about what they can do as Cubs and acting on those ideas.

Now if the scouts simply find reading hard. (It happens.) Then your den meetings need to be a few minutes of maybe reading that chapter together as a den. Then ask a few key questions so the scouts who read well can help the scouts who don’t. It may ultimately boil down to a scout who reads well becoming a buddy of a scout who doesn’t, and they get together once a week to knock out that chapter.

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I have done that before as well - sit and read with them. Last night we read through the requirements for Outdoorsman. Last weekend we planned a trip to go fishing on an island and needed to take a Ferry (Webelos and Boy Scouts) and people were late getting there and we left 1.5 hours late. We missed the Ferry for the night. Whole trip went south quickly. We talked about the importance of planning and sticking to a plan and sometimes delivering on-time. Most of my Cubs make rank, it’s so easy to do anymore and we are active enough outdoors that kids cover requirements very quickly (less need for the books). My sons are Boy Scouts and they have to read MB pamphlets and field guides and that wonderfully short Guide to Advancement so reading is key for Scouts as they progress.

More reading with them I guess…

I’ve been involved with Scouting for decades, and it would still take me a moment to recall “What’s the Sixth Scout Law” because I’d still have to mentally recite the whole thing and count as I go…

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And that is the EXACT point - they have to recite the code to get to the 6th. Hoping no one recalls it instantly… :slight_smile:

A scout must do what is required, no more & no less. Make completing the requirements fun & you will grow your den & pack! Plus, some sections of the handbooks are not well written.

Also, I strongly recommend Boys Life (soon to be renamed Scout Life) magazine for everyone in the unit. It is a great fun way to get kids reading something other than screens. Plus, its more portable than the handbook and no batteries or wifi required! :wink:

If you want the books to get some use, you’ve got to give them a reason. You could start picking one page out of the book to look at every meeting. Now, I say look at, not necessarily read. But it should be the most interesting page related to the adventure you are working on. That’ll show them that there is cool stuff in there.

Also, if a scout does an adventure at home, really praise them and tell the others they can do the same.

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Hi, @ChristopherDaly,

One thing I noticed was that my cub scouts were far more interested in opening their handbooks when our den chief told them there was something to see there. I could tell them (including my own son) the same thing, and it was like pulling teeth. Admittedly, I was extraordinarily lucky in the den chief I was assigned (in fact I’m going to his Eagle CoH this weekend). That notwithstanding, I have found at both the pack and troop levels that the scouts react far better to “this is fun” if it comes from the other youth than from the crusty old guy. :^)

ETA: I asked the den chief to come up with fun activities to drive home the key ideas of things with the scouts, and get them familiar with the resources they had available to learn their scout skills. I think one of the ideas he had was a “scavenger hunt” for information in the handbook. He didn’t sell it that way. I believe he told the scouts that they were going to play a game at the next meeting and that the scouts who read the whole adventure in the handbook were going to have a better chance at winning. Then, there were a bunch of clues like “this knot is similar to how you tie your shoes” and “this knot can be used to save someone’s life”. I’d never seen so many of the boys with their handbooks actually at the meeting.

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Good idea - I have been hoping parents would lean in on their kids and ask them if they are prepared for Scouts and have read what they need to read. Would make it a lot easier for parents to push a bit.

This may be an unrealistic expectation that will get a Den Leader down. In most packs that I’ve known, the majority of Cub parents have been doing so much “leaning in” in other areas that they don’t have much capacity to do it for scouting. So, the trick is to tap the scouts whose parents did push them to read that chapter and get them to reinforce what they learned while bringing their buddies along. The “scavenger hunt” is a great way to do it.
Other ways:

  • Hangman. Pick key terms from the chapter – especially if they have to do specifically with the evenings activity. Oh, when I play it with kids, I ask who wants to be hanged. Then as they miss a letter, I try to draw in the color hair, shoes, etc … of the scout.
  • Jigsaw puzzles. If parents have a simple one with a picture of the activity, it’s a great way to warm up the boys. You can also simply print a term or picture in large font and cut it in several pieces. (Got a scrapbooking parent? He/she might actually have perfect card stock for this sort of thing.)
  • Craft. If your scouts love getting into glue, paint, etc…, the first one to answer the key questions from the book gets to choose his materials and start working.
  • Teach. This may sound crazy, but if you know a scout’s hobby or interest is part of the next lesson, you can ask him/her to help you teach it! This may involve a “show and tell” about his interest. You could suggest they look at the book with their parent to see if it gives them an idea of what to present.

Keep it simple. Make it fun!

You could have them read it before the meeting, or read some from it during the meeting. But you can’t add to requirements and have them do any sort of report. Scouting isn’t school. If you make it suck (and I’m saying that because that’s the word I keep hearing from my Bears about all the new expectations in 3rd grade homework they’re having in school this year) they aren’t going to stick around. Scouting isn’t supposed to be an extension of school. It should be hands on and FUN!

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I asked all my Bears to look through the book in August and let me know what elective adventures they are excited about doing this year. Their parents sent me a text with their lists, and I used that to set this year’s program. I figured that would get them reviewing the book at least a little bit, and now that the boys are getting older, they can choose what electives this year’s program will cover. I also encourage them to work on extra electives with their families, if they want to.

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Wait… you expect them to look at the between den meetings? :laughing:
Heck, the den leaders don’t look at the book until the day before the meeting!

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The fact that grade school level children were late was probably more on the parents than the kids. To discuss being on time is great, but for those who know their parents were the late ones, probably just rubs into them that the parents are irresponsible. Set the meeting times for event earlier than you really want them there, contact them after ten minutes and then leave. It’s not fair to the other scouts to miss out on an event due to a couple of late arrivals. For those who arrive late, waiting on them over and over again, enables that behavior.

As for reading the book, not once did my son read his book - we didn’t even own them, from Tiger scout to Arrow of Light. He does have a Scout book but rarely reads it and only has his Eagle project left to complete. Use the meeting time to teach and train the scouts the concept being taught. Yes, it’s delightful when kids have read something and can be better prepared to participate and discuss but at grade school age, I was happy to have them attend the meeting and learn from what we taught them. And if they knew something more, BONUS!

I give my scouts a couple of those ‘sign here’ sticky tabs and have them choose which unsigned requirements they will work on next. When they are trying to make the choice, I help them find the proper bits in the book and put in a paperclip as a bookmark.

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So the books are useless? From Tiger to Eagle and has not cracked a book? Interesting