The number of boys who are proficient readers is significantly lower than it is for girls. This should be a matter of grave concern to both parents and teachers since there’s a direct correlation between reading and success in school and later in life. Parents and teachers can get boys to read more by first understanding why the problem exists and then taking practical steps to resolve it.
Why Boys Don’t Read
There are a number of reasons why boys don’t read. According to Jane Katch, author of Under Deadman’s Skin, children begin reading earlier than they once did, which is a problem for boys who are less verbal and develop more slowly than girls. In addition, boys are more physically active than girls – making it more difficult for them to sit and read for extended periods of time. Another problem for boys is the type of material promoted in the classroom. Many teachers are women, and although they may make an effort to balance the types of reading material available, they often revert back to what appeals to females. The kinds of books that appeal to boys are often not considered acceptable reading material and as a result, they’re not promoted at school or at home. Peer pressure is another factor. As boys reach their teen years they may begin to think that reading isn’t cool. In addition, boys often don’t see their fathers and other male role models reading.
What Boys will Read
Boys will read if they are presented with reading material that engages them. Rather than books that tug at the emotions, boys prefer action-filled stories. They also like books that are practical, such as how-to manuals. For example, if a boy is a skateboarder he might be interested in reading about skateboarding techniques. Boys should be provided with books about their interests. Parents shouldn’t assume they know what their sons will be interested in reading. It’s important to listen to and to observe them. What are they passionate about? In a bookstore or library, what types of books are they drawn to? According to Jon Scieszka – former teacher, children’s author, and originator of GuysRead.com – boys enjoy reading science fiction, nonfiction, fantasy, humor, graphic novels, comic books, magazines and online material. On his site Scieszka suggests a number of books for boys, which are listed by genre. BoysRead.org also provides lists of boy-friendly books. Another good resource is Getting Boys to Read: Quick Tips for Parents & Teachers by teacher and librarian Mike McQueen.
How to Get Boys to Read
1. In addition to being presented with appropriate reading material, boys need additional motivation to get them to read. It’s vital that they see their male role models reading. This will set a positive example as well as dispel the notion that reading is just for girls. Books can be read with adults and then discussed.
2. Kids need structure so it’s important that time be set aside each day just for reading. During this time, everyone in the family should be reading.
3. Teachers should not only make books available that appeal to boys but also actively promote them in the classroom. Many boys might enjoy acting out a book.
4. In addition, teachers could set up a board in the classroom on which boys could post summaries of books they’d like to recommend to others. Many schools have experienced great success with the Drop Everything and Read program, in which a period a day is devoted to students and teachers reading whatever they want.
There’s no reason to believe that boys can’t enjoy reading as much as girls do. Understanding why boys don’t read, what they will read, and how to get them to read will go a long way in getting boys to enjoy reading as youngsters and become lifelong readers.
Here are some ideas for books for boys: