Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Education: Encouraging the reluctant boy reader

Posted August 6, 2014

Children's books

In this day and age of testing, one fact has become apparent to educators and parents: Boy readers are on a decline.

Statistically, girls score higher, read more and consider reading more enjoyable than boys from toddlers through adults. Why? And what can parents do to help foster strong boy readers?

Many factors play into the lack of happiness boys feel from reading.

First, most reading at home is often done with mom or a female member of the family. Often the books rhyme or have funny characters or plots that appeal more to girls. How often does an informational book get chosen? Or a book about a sports character? All reading with children is time well spent, but catering more to your boy’s interests will help to nurture him as a reader.

Second, when it comes time for presents or rewards, girls often get books while sports equipment or hands-on toys are given to boys.

In our culture, boys learn from an early age that athletic skills are valued higher than academic skills. What words are often used to describe a boy reading in the school courtyard versus the boys out on the playground? What about the boy that chooses to read instead of watch sports? Parents should praise their boys for their time spent reading. Those boys can benefit from seeing positive male figures in his life reading, too.

What can parents do at home? Studies show that academically, it takes boys longer to learn how to read than girls.

Celebrate the small milestones your child accomplishes when learning to read. Determine your child’s preferences in reading and interests. For example, many boys enjoy reading how-to books or informational books. Visit the public library for books on different topics - not just fiction books. Many magazines published in recent years might be of interest for boys such as Sports Illustrated for Kids; Boys Life; and Ask and Odyssey, both science publications.

Finally, books can be great rewards or incentives for children. No matter the ages or how many children in a family, sons (and daughters) really enjoy one-on-one attention from a parent. This can be one of the most valued times in a child’s life (and it is free). Use a book and some one-on-one time with a child as a prize or as special time. Not many kids will turn that down!

I will end on one of the best stories about a male role model demonstrating the importance of reading (thanks Dr. Eckert). A principal visited a classroom where the students were participating in silent reading. He joined in with his reading selection. As a bookmark, he used a $20 bill, which, of course, piqued the interest of students.

He explained that the bookmark symbolized how reading brought him true wealth and accomplishments in his life. Reading allowed him to become the person he was that day. Celebrate the boy reader in your life!

Here are a few resources for high interest books for boys:
Guys Read
Common Sense Media Book List for Boys
Reluctant Boy Readers List (Scholastic)

Lissy Wood is a Triangle mom of two and founder of Wake Gifted Academy, which is schedule to open in June 2015 with summer camps.


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  • msp3 Aug 8, 2014

    Jon Scieszka from Guys Read is going to be at Quail Ridge Books & Music on Monday, Aug 25th. He has a new book titled Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor.

  • thewayitis Aug 7, 2014

    I know my son preferred encyclopedias and nonfiction as a child. Even as a very young child. I admit, it drove me crazy at times because I wanted to read stories (much easier for a parent to read, I think), but when he chose, it was always one of those children's encyclopedias. Today he still likes non-fiction and encyclopedias. :-) Although he has broadened his tastes to include some good fiction, too.

    I think the best advice is to expose your children to a wide variety of literature, and they will usually find something they like. Start young, so that reading is something they've always known.

  • 50s Child Aug 7, 2014

    Does anyone think it just MIGHT have something to do with a culture that says boys DO and LITTLE girls ARE? As in, boys are astronauts and LITTLE girls are sweet? Boys run, rough-house, build and invent, and LITTLE girls are sweet? Boys have adventures and LITTLE girls are sweet?

    Or for that matter, that boys are boys and girls are LITTLE girls?

  • Hope Lives Aug 7, 2014
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    My son is a teenager now, but when he was younger he struggled with reading, and still does to some extent. His Dad and I both tried to have one-on-one reading time with him and tried comic books and SciFi books as those were the ones that interested him the most. But even still, he was never keen on reading time whether one of us did it with him or not. He would much prefer doing hands on things. Reading simply was not enjoyable for him. We still read with him but I don't know if that helped or hurt in encouraging reading in the long run.

  • carrboroyouth Aug 7, 2014

    "Often the books rhyme or have funny characters or plots that appeal more to girls."

    Thaaat is simply not true. There are FAR more male protagonists in children's books than female ones. (Source: article from the April 2011 issue Gender & Society -- based on a study of nearly 6,000 books published from 1900 to 2000). Obviously that doesn't mean the child cannot read and enjoy a book that a main character of the opposite gender but to suggest that there aren't enough plotlines for boys is simply laughable.

    Also, "How often does an informational book get chosen?" What does this imply? That girls do not have an interest in non-fiction and boys do not have imaginations? Sounds like stereotyping to me.