Reflections on boys’ reading

Reflections and tips on boys’ reading…

I asked a few friends who have boys of varying ages what their thoughts and top tips might be on getting/keeping boys reading. 

Here are their responses …

1. Well, he’s gone slightly off the boil at the moment, not enjoying his current book….

Anyway, I’d recommend:

– Start early; read to them when they are young.
– Build time for reading into the routine (if you have one), for e.g. we send him to bed at a certain time and he’s allowed 30 minutes reading before lights out.
– Involve them in reading choices. If I suggest a book to read, it’s sure to turn him off the book! If a friend or independent person (e.g. Waterstone’s staff) recommend a book, it’s more likely to be accepted, and don’t ‘judge’. I may not necessarily agree with the choices, but hey, he’s reading.
– Talk to them about the book. Ask for a story synopsis; be prepared to read the book too (I have read loads that I wouldn’t have chosen myself, but it certainly aids communication).
– Set an example and let them see you read too (and Dad).


2. I have taught M how to read but I wouldn’t call him a proactive reader. I suppose my top tips would be:

  • Make sure that they have mastered the mechanics
  • Make sure you recommend books that are at the right level and are of interest.  Ask your friends to make recommendations.  Know your son’s interests.
  • Be interested in what your son is reading.  Ask questions to see if they are really reading the book.

We are looking to buy him a Kindle to see if this may get his interest levels up.  You never know.


3. Dr Zeus got T started somewhat late and now reads more widely than anyone I know – it sparks his imagination. Am still trying with M!!


4. Read to them from an early age- regularly every night making it fun (funny voices for characters)

Help them choose books.

Take books on holiday and ensure time is left free for reading.

Accept there will be times when they don’t read- try and find ones that will really excite them and be very happy when they “discover” the first of a trilogy/larger set.


5. I’m afraid I would still like to know! J still doesn’t read that well except sports related things!

Like with many boys non-fiction is easier and he does not mind autobiographies of sporting heroes.


6. I think the problem is to keep boys reading not to start them reading.

Both of mine loved being read to and enjoyed books very much until they had to do it for themselves at an older age, which coincided with general minimal effort approach to school type stuff.

I also think subject matter is problematic for boys – if you don’t like sci fi, mystery stuff there doesn’t seem to be a huge choice. B would always choose fact books because you could read little snippets only – I found this very irritating

B has just read Big boys don’t cry and couldn’t stop reading – about a teenage boy who becomes a father unplanned and who takes responsibility for his child. Much more interesting and relevant have found it difficult to find other stuff – if he doesn’t like it in the first 5 seconds you can forget it!


7. I think A became a keen reader, at about year 5/6 when he discovered the Darren Shan, scary series, and he never looked back.  He loved having a whole series of books to read and loved scary stories.  Also, by having a very good English teacher at school who encouraged them to write about sport, rather than boring things and made the link with reading.


8. J is a good reader, but doesn’t love it, doesn’t love reading long books, but we’ve introduced him to some of his brother’s old series. Also we read most nights to him as well, which he still loves.  He did love the books from the Mystery Mob series (Rising Stars), but can be daunted by long books, so tend to stick to shorter chapter books.


9. W was easy as he naturally read from a very young age. No wonder he is so good at English now!

E is another matter.  Very reluctant to read and will avoid it as much as possible.  The only way to get him to read was to choose thin books with short chapters to keep his concentration.  He likes pictures, cartoons or puzzles within the stories.  He loved the Beastquest books and I’ve just bought him The Hunger Games which he has just started – but he only wanted that because of the publicity.

Apart from that, we tried magazines, gameboy and computer games with reading – any reading on a screen would not be a problem! I think screen-based reading tools would be a great hit with boys!


So, what might this tell us about boys and their reading?  

  • Routine and finding time are crucial.
    • Busy lives conflict with this but find time and make time.
    • Remember though, that what you think is reading time may not be the right time for your son – so be flexible.
  • Whatever you think… don’t judge what they are choosing.
    • It’s hard sometimes, but as one mum says above, ‘Hey, he’s reading…’
    • There’s no shame in thin books and short chapters (mentioned several times above).
  • Get involved so you can discuss a book or author with them as well as check that they are actually reading and understanding it.
    • Many books have online quizzes attached which they may enjoy
    • But don’t always think you have to do this or keep checking them.
  • Get the reading level right  but if they choose a book that is a bit tricky then share it and read some chapters to them to keep up the momentum before they become frustrated.
    • Audio books or eBooks with an audio option can be helpful here.
    • Similarly though, don’t worry if they choose an easy book now and again.
  • Try engaging them with gadgets and technology if you think it may offer something new and exciting.
    • One mum above mentions trying a kindle where another mentions on-line reading in general.
  • Link to films or fads
    • The latest film or TV series can be a great way in to a series as one mum mentions above with reference to The Hunger Games.
  • Just one book…
    • Remember that it can take ‘just one book’ to  get them  hooked, so it’s worth searching for…


Interesting thought…

One mum makes an interesting comment about the lack of a range of fiction for boys; so NOT mystery, sci-fi, scary or sporty.  I think it’s an interesting point and I’m off to research this further … (along with some Dads’ reflections too).


Thanks to Judy, Liz, Angela, Jill, Kate, Nicola, Deb and Tracey.

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