Parents, teachers and educationalists all complain that boys are slow to learn to read, then do not enjoy reading and do not read for pleasure. Girls outdo boys in learning to read and because reading is the foundation of all knowledge girls do much better at school than boys do. Why do boys not enjoy reading in the same way that girls do, and how can we get boys to love books.
Children copy adults and they learn their sense of themselves from the adults around them. If children do not see their parents reading, they may believe that reading is an unnecessary activity. If boys do not see adult males reading, they may believe that reading is a female activity. It might be a good idea for Dad to read the bedtime story to a little boy. Uncles, Grandfathers, and older brothers should also read to little boys as often as possible, so that they get the idea that men read too. Dad might not be much of a reader, or the boy may be growing up within a single parent family. Perhaps there is a male person, within the family, or amongst your friends, who adores books? Perhaps he would be a kind of reading godfather to foster a love of books within the lad, to talk to him about reading and books, and to give the occasional book gift to the child.
Perhaps the greatest difficulty for getting boys to love books is finding something that seizes and holds their attention. There are two problems, one is getting boys reading early in their reading career and the other is keeping them reading.
Sometimes, first reading books are rather dull and boys find them uninteresting. For example, X’s twin niece, H, and nephew C, were in their first year at school. X learned that, although H had quickly become an independent reader and was avidly devouring books. Her brother, C, was slow in learning to read, seemed disinterested, and was getting frustrated because his twin was so much better at reading than him.
X, visited an independent bookshop, with a large children’s section. She explained the problem to the bookseller, who understood immediately and, asking what C’s interests were, recommended some books. As C was very excited by vehicles, X settled on a series about a bus, which changed its top to solve various transport problems and dilemmas in the community, and she bought two. X sent books to both children. C was enthused and excited, when opening his parcel, and insisted on taking the books to school to show his teacher. He wanted to read these books and, with a little help, read the whole of the first book to his teacher, the first time, he had ever read a whole book, largely by himself, with such enthusiasm and interest. The teacher said it was so rare to find easy reading books that boys found so interesting and ordered the series for the school.
Sometimes a boy is quick to learn to read and reads well for a time, but then bicycles, computers, skateboards, sports and other exciting things make books seem tame, by comparison, and they lose interest in reading. It is a question of finding a series, or genre, of books to reignite their interest and enthusiasm. It can be that when boys graduate, from first books with pictures and just a few sentences, in large print, on each page, to more ‘grown-up’ books, with few pictures and blocks of small print, that they frighten them. Short stories could be one answer, because a child can choose to read just one story, or more, and a page or two of print is much less frightening than a whole book. Many people think that children should not read comics or graphic books but, for many boys, they are less frightening than a reading book, with large blocks of small print, and they may be a way to encourage a boy, whose interest in, and enthusiasm for, reading has flagged.
CP had been quick to learn to read and was, initially, enthused and excited by books and reading. This continued for several years, but at about age 10, he lost interest in reading, preferring other activities. Someone bought him some children’s adventure thriller stories, where the reader controls the story’s development and its outcome. He adored these books and collected the whole series. This led him to other adventure thriller books written for young people and, thus, reignited his enthusiasm and interest in reading and books and re-established his reading habit. Now called interactive fiction books, some of these types of book now pair with new technologies to give them an even more exciting interest for boys.
The selection of books for boys has much improved over recent years and many authors now write for boys of all ages. Whether a lad enjoys thrillers, adventure stories, mystery or ghost stories or other kinds of books, it is possible to find a book to suit his tastes and to keep that spark of interest and enthusiasm alive.
Getting boys to love books is not too difficult. It is a matter getting across to boys that men read and enjoy books, and that reading is not an exclusively female activity. It is vital to ensure that fear or frustration does not prevent boys from reading. It is also important to give boys exciting, interesting books that they want to read, both to get them reading and to keep them reading.