Getting Boys Reading

Boys Are Readers Too!

If you know a boy who doesn’t like to read, this article is for you. There are several things a concerned adult can do to help change the situation. Be sure to let the boy see the significant men in his life reading themselves. Make available a wide variety of reading materials with lots of graphics to pique his interest. Read to your boy from materials or subject matter that interest him. Find ways to make reading practical, with ‘hands-on’ aspects where there is an intrinsic incentive to read: like building an insect home. Ownership of books is important to anyone who is a reader so buy him books.

A lot of research indicates that our boys are influenced by the other males in their lives and will try to emulate them. This is true of reading as well. If you really want to see your sons succeed in school, Dad, then let them see you reading for pleasure. Dad has the most important place in the life of most boys and unless there is an unhealthy relationship there, boys will try to be like their dad. In the absence of a father figure, an older brother, relative or “Big Brother” volunteer to whom the boy looks up would fulfill the same function. In this way, boys will see that it is not ‘sissy’ to read or only for girls. Although any reading Dad might do is better than nothing, reading for pleasure and not just for information, like the newspaper, is considered the most beneficial. So pull out the Louis L’Amour or Bram Stoker.

Where an avid reader will read anything they can get their hands on, finicky readers are much more discerning. The boy who doesn’t like to read just hasn’t found anything of interest to him. The mentor’s job is find ways to expose the boy to the myriad of materials that are available now. Leave comics and boys’ magazines around the house or buy them as gifts. Sometimes the pictures are a way to access the reader in boys. Do an interest inventory with him if you don’t know his interests. Have him tag along with you to the library and bookstore and make sure you cruise through the kids’ and youth section. Pick up an appealing title from this section yourself or model asking what other boys are reading either of a boy there at the time or of the librarian. Non-fiction is often very popular with boys, such as The Guiness Book of Records, books about airplanes, cars, bikes, insects, animals, famous men to mention a few.

Once you have discovered what your boy’s interests are, read to him every day as part of a routine, bedtime, after breakfast or whenever you can do so regularly. Engage him in the material by talking about the pictures, asking his opinion about some part or telling him of something in your experience the story or picture reminds you about. If Dad can do the reading to him, so much the better. Have your boy make predictions about what might happen next, or what he might do if he were in the story if you are reading prose. If you are reading boy’s magazines or non-fiction, try to relate the theme to the boy’s life in some way. Help him find a reason to read for himself once he is not totally distancing himself from reading.

Many boys are creatures of action (as are many girls). They may not have the patience to read but would rather be out climbing trees, catching worms or playing at the skateboard park. There are a great number of books available now that appeal to the ‘action kid’. Books that have movable parts like pop-ups, sliding panels and opening flaps as well as removable artifacts can ‘turn-on’ many boys. The advent of the Harry Potter series (J.K. Rowling) has seen books like Dragonology and Wizardology surface. These can be fascinating as can books about ‘gross’ subjects like insects in your hamburger, human/animal/insect anatomy with manipulatable parts.
‘How-to’ books provide a reason to read: that is to accomplish a task or fulfill a desire. Making paper airplanes, a wooden bird house, a fishing rod or a great clubhouse sandwich might reason enough, with help, to read. Check out your local book store for more ideas.

It has been shown in the research that ownership of books helps a boy develop a relationship with books. His collection is something he can show his friends and return to time and again between trips to the library. Visit the many second hand book stores in existence now so he can expand his library as much as possible. Don’t neglect the library, because it can be a source of ideas if nothing else and adults can learn what books might be worth buying for their boy. Owning books is a trait of readers, books that interest him.

It may not be an easy road, but be persistent and consistent in your efforts to turn your boy on to reading. There is far more and interesting material available now to kids than there was in the 1960s when I was a reluctant reader. You can transform your action guy into an action reader guy.