Getting Boys to Read

Kevin Coolidge
Kevin is the creator of The Totally Ninja Raccoons and lives in Wellsboro Pennsylvania

Oct 25,2017

The more that you read,

the more things you will know.

The more that you learn,

the more places you’ll go.

~ Dr. Seuss ~

Sunshine streams through my window. I’m enjoying a mug of strong, black coffee and reading the results of the latest scientific study: Experts researching on how gender affects learning have found that boys and girls are different by nature and they learn in different ways. Yes, that’s right. Boys are different than girls, and if you are going to get boys to read, you must recognize the things that make boys different.

Boys’ brains are wired differently from girls. They learn differently. Classrooms and libraries are quiet and orderly, the way women and girls like them. Boys need more stimuli to get their brains going — noise and color and motion. As a boy, I had trouble sitting still in class, and I never even had a male teacher until fifth grade.

As a boy, I loved to read, and I still do, but I didn’t always read what you’d call classics. Often I was steered to books my female teachers thought I should like. I loved to read, not because of the choices put before me by the school system, but in spite of those choices. Boys need to be allowed a lot of options. Boys tend to choose stories full of action, gross stuff and silly humor, because that’s what boys like. What do most boys think of many of the books that win awards? Boring.

The first way to get a boy to read is to not force him to read. Offer a well-edited selection of books after you ask his interests. The worst mistake is to assume that all boys will take to the same book. There is no one book, and that’s the challenge. Every boy is different. Let him feel like it’s his decision.  

Boys tend to find nonfiction much more interesting than fiction. Growing up, I loved books on nature and animals, especially dinosaurs, as well as science fiction. I also enjoyed comic books, the predecessor to graphic novels. Boys love collecting facts on subjects that fascinate them. It may be cars, or sports, or disgusting factoids from Oh, Yikes!: History’s Grossest Moments written by Joy Massoff. Using this passion is a great way to fuel the love of reading.

Boys like stories, but if your boy acts like a book is a strange object, you could try slipping in an audio book during your next car trip. Your boy may just want to stay in the car until the story is finished. Boys also like funny stories. You can get them joke books, or humorous stories. You can try the Diary of a Wimpy kid series by Jeff Kinney, a laugh-out-loud novel done in cartoons.

It’s important not to criticize the boy’s choice. Reading almost anything is better than reading nothing. It may feel that he’s choosing books that are too easy, but reading at any level is valuable practice, and success helps build confidence as well as reading skills. Don’t set unrealistic goals, but rather look for small signs of progress. Don’t expect a reluctant reader to finish a book overnight, but maybe over the next week with some gentle encouragement.  

Boys will read. We just need to give them the books they want to read. If you let a boy read what he likes, he’ll be so hooked on reading that he just may read a classic, or even better, grows up to be a man who loves to read…

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