Educational research and statistics suggest that all children, boys included, whose parents read to them from an early age, develop greater literacy skills and are more likely to do well at school. This is all well and good, but parents cannot spend their entire lives reading to their children, and the National Assessment of Educational Progress results suggest that boys are slower than girls when it comes to developing a love of books and reading by themselves, rather than being read to. So it’s clearly important for parents to focus on their son’s reading, and the following tips may help to get you started.
Keep on reading to him
While girls are more likely to want to start reading books by themselves, boys may need encouragement in the form of parental participation for a longer period. Try to make time to read to your son at bedtime, just as you did when he was a baby. Positive associations between books and parental love, warmth and comfort can go a long way towards making him want to pick up the book and carry on reading for himself, especially if it’s an exciting story and you leave off reading at a thrilling moment in the plot.
Let him read comics
Illustrated comic books may not be every parent’s first choice of literary material, but they are infinitely preferable to not reading at all. If comic books, with their vivid images and action-packed story lines, are what it takes to get him reading, so be it. He will graduate to ‘proper’ books, with fewer illustrations and more text, when he is ready, and meanwhile he is associating reading with enjoyment, which can’t be bad, and learning new words.
Let him choose his own reading material
Many adults would rather read a popular but well-written best seller than struggle through ‘War and Peace’. So it should come as no surprise that a boy will be more likely to pick up and read a book he has chosen for himself, rather than one you have thrust upon him because it is a literary classic or a part of the school curriculum. Boys often prefer a fast-paced narrative with lots of action and movement, page-turners with central characters of their own age and gender. Try to have plenty of options available for your son, since book covers and blurbs can be misleading. He will probably know by the end of the first few pages whether a book is going to hold his interest.
Join a lending library
Having lots of reading options is expensive if you are buying from a bookshop, so instead of wasting money on books he may discard after the first chapter, enroll him in a lending library. In fact, enroll the whole family in a lending library, and make a visit to the library a weekly family outing. Seeing his parents and siblings enjoying reading will provide him with role models and encouragement.
Talk to a children’s librarian
The specialist children’s librarian at your local library will know which books are favored by young boys, so take advice from a professional. If the waiting list for a particular book is too long you may just have to buy it, but it is less likely to be a wasted outlay than if you choose blindly. If the recommendation is ‘Harry Potter’, suspend your disbelief: millions of young readers can’t all be wrong.
Find a slightly older boy as mentor
Peer pressure is an inescapable factor in the lives of young people, so turn it to your advantage. Your son’s teacher may be able to recommend an avid male reader, in the grade above your son’s own, who would be willing to act as his reading mentor. The older boy could recommend books he has enjoyed, discuss the books your son has read himself, and generally make reading seem cool in the eyes of his younger friend.
Buy an e-book reader
Most boys love technology and gadgets, so if you can afford an e-book reader, put it on your son’s birthday or Christmas list. It may not be a book as you knew it, because it is not: it’s thousands, millions of books. He will want to read, just so that he can use his e-book reader, and for once he is using technology with your absolute approval. He’s an e-reader.
If you are having problems getting your son to read, take him on this journey: from being read to, through comics and books he has chosen himself, via lending libraries and that admired older boy, all the way to curling up voluntarily with a good e-book.