By the age of 8, most kids are able to read fluently on their own.  This can be when the next level can be exciting (Yay, they are independent readers!) or worrying (without assigned, nightly readers many boys drift away from reading).  Left to their own devices, we hope that boys will want to read.  We all know the research: reading builds vocabulary, improves reading comprehension, writing, grammar, spelling and knowledge.  It also boosts their test results.  But what if your son isn’t drawn to books?
Educators report that reading for fun drops off considerably during the tween and teenage years.    That’s why it’s critical to encourage our middle primary boys (& girls) to read.  We hope that these tips provide some ideas, inspiration and encouragement for you as your child moves to the next stage of his reading life.

1) Be encouraging, not controlling

Try not to be too pushy or single-minded on certain books.  Parents are the main gateway for supplying books for their kids.  The trick lies in supplying them books with an attitude that is both enthusiastic and nonchalant!  Many kids can be overwhelmed by the choices so planting a couple of books around the house might be the key.

2)  Feed their interests

Sport, space travel, World War stories, alien invasion, wizards, books about being in middle primary – whatever your son is into – there are books about it.  Finding a book on a topic your son is already passionate about is half the battle. Click here for some recommended reads for students in those middle primary years.  Also, keep an eye on the New York Times children’s bestseller lists – this is certain to include books that are popular among your child’s peers.

3)  Make it social

Chatting with other readers is a great opportunity to motivate kids who might be feeling insecure about their reading ability, and build confidence.  Reading the latest hit book lets your son be a part of what “everyone” is talking about.  Check the middle-grade bestseller lists, clue your son into book blogs (including ones by kids and teens), and ask booksellers and librarians what kids this age are requesting. And keep your ears tuned to book raves on carpool rides! (Note: Change the conversation from “What page are you on?” to “Which sports star/dragon/alien character would you be?”)

TIP: Encourage your son to write a short book review on Common Sense Media or another website that encourages kids to post their opinion of a book.

4)  Broaden your son’s book horizons

If your child is stuck in a reading rut – choosing the same book over and over – try this “5 Book Choice” trick: select a couple that veer slightly off his path for e.g. Egyptian myths if he’s stuck on the Greeks.  Add a couple that connects his non-reading interests (e.g. cricket and camping) and then one outlier that you’re not sure about.  Ask him to pick out one of the five that looks most interesting to him and let him know that you’re keen to hear what he thinks about the book.

“Broad reading has a big impact academically,” says Tricia Adams, Director of the School Library Association. “The more widely a child reads, the greater the range of vocabulary, grammar, syntax, plot and genre they will explore. This will all have an impact not just on their reading comprehension but also on the quality of their writing.”

5)  All Ears

Audiobooks can be a great way for your child to tackle longer books. Tablets and e-readers are hugely popular with children because of their “coolness” factor. (Most tablets offer ways of locking the open application, so you can be sure your children are spending time reading and are not distracted opening other apps.)  Star power might be useful here: actors like Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry and Kate Winslet are brilliant at reading books.  Don’t forget that libraries offer many great stories that are downloadable for free.  With little to no financial outlay, you can easily start a story and abandon it if your son doesn’t enjoy it.

6) Make the time to read

If you turn off the tv and devices and model reading at home, your child will be more inclined to follow your example and read themselves.  Reading a book or magazine in full view of your children helps to foster a positive attitude toward reading.  If you are heading out, get your children in the habit of bringing a book or magazine.

It isn’t easy to build the habit of reading in your children, because it takes time for us to see visible results. Don’t be discouraged. You children will benefit from the effort that you put in.

Check out our blogs for more ideas and tips.

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