How do we get boys reading in the digital age?

All too often, boys might enjoy reading in the early grades, but their opinions become more and more negative as they get older.  By the time they reach high school, the average boy has no interest in reading.  So what makes a boy a good or bad reader, especially when competing with tv, ipads and video games?

Motivation & self concept

Does reading seem rewarding? Exciting? Interesting? It’s fairly obvious that if you have a better attitude to reading (eg you find it enjoyable) then you will read more often your comprehension improves and you add to your background knowledge. The opposite would also be true – if reading is a struggle, this leads to a negative attitude and avoidance, and a boy falls further behind his peers.

TIP: For really reluctant readers aim for one session a day, make it brief – no more than 10 minutes.  To help keep your son’s attitude upbeat, try to pick a time to practice when he’s least likely to be tired or hungry.  A little frustration is normal but don’t give up. Ask, “Great effort, but do you think that we’re done?”

get boys reading in the digital age


“Reading self-concept is both built by and a contributor to positive reading attitudes and the act of reading.”

(Daniel Willingham, 2015)

This is where reading self-concept can be more important than reading attitudes. If being a reader is part of a boy’s self-concept, it will occur to them to include it more frequently. For eg, “What will I do on that 2 hour car trip? I’ll bring my ipad and listen to music. Oh, I should grab a book too.”  Thus, the more you read, the more “reader” becomes cemented as part of a boy’s self-concept.

get boys reading in the digital age


You might say, “But isn’t this just pressuring a boy to read?  I think that I should just back off.” Beware, this is not the solution.  You don’t want your son to opt out, even if reading does not come easily.  Your son will have talents/skills that come easily to him (eg a certain sport, public speaking, confidence to catch the bus on his own) but he will have things that challenge him.  It’s normal that some things come easier to others.  Try saying, “Yes I can see that this is difficult for you.  But I’m impressed at how hard you’re working at it.”


Is technology killing reading?

get boys reading in the digital age

We summarise some key things parents can do to help engage their sons with reading in our blog  “The problem with boys not reading”.  In this we recommend that parents should embrace technology and use it as a tool for engagement – not shun it.  Will an e-reader help motivation? Research shows that e-readers do improve access – being able to download any book you want is a terrific advantage.


Young, reluctant readers prefer e-readers

A 2014 study published by Library & Information Science Research, revealed that out of 143 students, most preferred e-readers.  Boys and those who were reluctant readers also shared a strong preference for e-readers.  For older boys of 13+ websites like Wattpad and Inkpop are similar to social networking sites when teens can share their fiction writing in a blog-like format. Make it easy by accessing e-books or try scheduling dedicated reading time.


You don’t need to be a superhero to help your son to enjoy reading

get boys reading in the digital age

There are lots of ways to get boys reading in the digital age.  Remember that your goal is that 

your son enjoys reading, not to feel pressured or unhappy about it.  There are many challenges for boys as readers but you can provide a good reading environment (eg  magazines, books on topics of special interest to them, e-readers) , routines (even 10 minutes a day) and valuing reading as a self-concept to ensure that your boy is reading widely and passionately in this digital age.


Check out our blogs for more ideas and tips.

Five Tips for Helping Boys with Reading Comprehension

What to do when your son hates reading – 6 top tips

Best Boy’s Books from 2017

Brought to you by Tanya Grambower

Literacy For Boys Reading in Action