I think many of us have witnessed the fact that boys would rather do anything but read.  Teachers and parents alike have heard all the excuses: he’s too busy, can’t find anything he likes or just doesn’t enjoy it.  Don’t worry, you’re not alone and there are plenty of things we can do to help boys engage with reading.  We believe that reading and literacy are fundamental to success in life. We need our children to get onto the reading ladder: anything that they enjoy reading will move them up, rung by rung, into literacy. 

Where to start

Never give up searching for something – anything he wants to read.  Don’t be dismayed if it doesn’t seem like ‘real’ reading to you.  A new tactic I’ve used recently with my students is using the weekend paper’s sports review – it covers all footy codes and other popular sports. Remember, it’s our job to encourage boys and continue to offer ways for them to read.  Author Neil Gaiman referred to fiction as the ‘gateway drug’ to reading.  We believe that comics, sports reviews, online magazines and the like can be a boys’ ‘gateway drug’ to fiction.  All of my kids have drifted away from reading from time to time, but I’ve worked really hard to find the next author, the next series, the next book that they might enjoy (there’s been many knockbacks but when you find ‘the‘ book/series, it’s worth the effort.)

1. Find great topics they WANT to read

A good book for a boy is one he wants to read” – our favourite quote by acclaimed author James Maloney says it all.  The real trick is finding what that should be.  Our advice is ANYTHING is better than nothing, non-fiction is often a good start.  If he’s into sports, match reviews can get him reading.   Comics, graphic novels and magazines also have value.  Don’t be critical about the topics he wants to read (eg toilet humour, cartoon books etc) – however, don’t let him become too stuck or reliant on these as boys can tend to read this genre on repeat.  Keep searching for recommended reads, there are a lot of good resources out there with great suggestions.

2. Don’t be afraid to embrace technology

Boys love to use their laptops, tablets and phones – embrace it.  Many boys who would recoil in horror at the idea of picking up a book will happily read all manner of things on their tablet.   There is evidence to show that many educational websites improve both reading comprehension and fluency, but more importantly can help boys enjoy reading.   It’s why we created the only, world-first program dedicated to boys!  Boys will read if you give them choice, engaging content in a format that they know: technology.

Allow them to read their favourite magazine on their tablet, there are a wealth of great books available online.  If sports and match reviews are his thing then embrace the online news.  Don’t give up on traditional books, remember a little is better than nothing.  Any type of reading that can spark their interest is a great start.

3. Be prepared to start small

Short and sweet is fine.  You can start with almost anything.  The Guinness Book of World Records is great, it’s full of interesting facts has a lot of visual stimulus and can be broken into small bite sized chunks of information.  Short stories and graphic novels are also an excellent way to gain interest.  We know boys who were entirely disinterested in the idea of reading until they received a magic kit and then could not stop reading the instruction manual.  Remember: something is better than nothing.

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4. Be a reading Role Model

Show him it’s okay to read and that it’s ‘something we do around here’.  The best way is for boys to see you reading a range of different materials.  It is especially important for boys to see their fathers, and other respected male role models, reading.  One of the often-cited reasons boys don’t read is that it is deemed to be a ‘feminine’ pastime.  Seeing dads or other males regularly reading can break down this stereotype. In our house, my hubby orders audiobooks and listens to them when he’s travelling each day – this way he gets to chat with our sons about what he’s reading.  I can definitely recommend this to the busy dads out there! 

5. Take the time to read with him

The most precious of all the commodities – time.  Not easy to come by in our busy lives but it is up to all of us as parents and educators to find some time, even if only a small amount to read with boys.  If you cannot do this consider the concept of shared reading whereby you both read the same book or material and discuss it.  The earlier we start reading with our boys the better, but it’s never too late to make that connection.

Brought to you by Tanya Grambower

Tanya is the founder and managing Director of Literacy For Boys.  She has a Bachelor of Education with over 25 years’ teaching experience in international schools and throughout Australia. She has run her own successful tutoring business, for over 15 years.  Tanya recently released Literacy for Kids – due to girls loving the content in our boys’ program.

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