How to Raise Boys That Read-

Forum category Hint: Not with gross-out books or video games

Everyone agrees that if boys don’t read well, it’s because they don’t read enough. But why don’t they read? A considerable number of teachers and librarians believe that boys are simply bored by the “stuffy” literature they encounter in school. According to a revealing Associated Press story in July these experts insist that we must “meet them where they are”—that is, pander to boys’ untutored tastes.

For elementary- and middle-school boys, that means “books that exploit [their: love of bodily functions and gross-out humor.” AP reported that one school librarian treats her pupils to “grossology” parties. “Just get ‘em reading,” she counsels cheerily. “Worry about what they’re reading later.”emphasis mine
With titles like The Day My Butt Went Psycho, Sir Fartsalot Hunts the Booger, and SweetFarts, how on earth are boys going to grow up to be anything but slobbering knuckle-dragging barbarians?

Does anyone here think that we need to just get our boys reading and then sort out what they are reading later?

Dr. Robert Weis, a psychology professor at Denison University, confirmed … in a randomized controlled trial … the effect of video games on academic ability. Boys with video games at home, he found, spend more time playing them than reading, and their academic performance suffers substantially. Hard to believe, isn’t it, but Science has spoken.

The secret to raising boys who read, I submit, is pretty simple—keep electronic media, especially video games and recreational Internet, under control (that is to say, almost completely absent). Then fill your shelves with good books.
What do you do to control electronic media in your home, and encourage your boys (and girls) not only to read, but to read books of redeeming value?


it’s been a while since i read any juvie lit, but why don’t boys want to read something like hardy boys anymore?

I don’t think it’s a matter of boys not wanting to read Hardy Boys anymore- I think parents don’t read, so kids don’t read. Then to ‘bribe’ kids into reading, they cater to their baser desires, since that is what they themselves have done with their entertainment choices.

Kids also will follow the path of least resistance. As the author recommends, if electronic media is severely limited, kids will choose to occupy themselves with what is readily available, so parents either need to have a decent library in their homes, or make frequent trips to the library.

There are websites that can help parents figure out what books to choose for their kids- I’ve been checking out the reviews at Common Sense Media - even when they recommend a book, the review includes information about what parents might find objectionable.

Here’s part of a review of…] The Adventures of Captain Underpants :
No one would mistake this for fine literature, but it may be a good pick for your reluctant reader: THE ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS is full of corny jokes, bad puns, bathroom humor, and rowdy, disrespectful behavior. If you or your kids can’t stand the thought of two boys “with a silly streak a mile long” using a piece of “fake doggy doo doo” to fight a diaper-wearing mad scientist, then this book isn’t for them. It’s for kids who love a good practical joke and won’t stop telling knock-knock jokes, and who’d rather be running around outside than reading.
While I don’t agree with the last sentence, the first part tells me all I need to know.

Focus on the Family has… some book reviews for parents that include many current popular titles, such as the books in The Hunger Games trilogy, the Uglies trilogy, the Percy Jackson series…

With resources like these, there is no excuse for parents not to be able to educate themselves and steer their kids toward decent reading material.

I don’t agree with giving boys ‘gross’ books to read, and I am sure there are many facets to why boys don’t read, but could part of it be we were/are not given books that excite our higher level interests so instead we resort to books that rely on flatulent and crude jokes to pique our interests? I remember my Dad reading to us when we were younger many poems and books, some of which were works by Asimov, The Charge of the Light Brigade (which I believe was my younger brother’s favorite), Jabberwocky, Beowulf, the Iliad and Odyssey, etc. Of course that really hits on two points, books that are interesting to boys and a parent that read. (we also hardly watched TV or played video games)

The Book Whisperer blog has had some good posts on this topic- one that came to mind was…] Parents: Reading Role Models or Victims of Readicide?
Teachers expect parents to support literacy at home—reading to their children, taking them to the library and buying books, and sharing their literacy lives. What about parents who cannot do the job?

… Schools are not creating capable, lifelong readers, yet we expect parents to rise from the ashes of their own reading failures or apathy and become reading role models for their own kids.

I hear it almost every day, “He is just like his father, he hates to read, too,” or “I was never a reader much myself, she must have gotten that from me,” as if reading interest and ability are traits you inherit like eye color or attached earlobes. A reading gene has not been found, but we recognize the environmental connection. Parents who don’t read often have children who don’t read, and the generational cycle continues on and on.

If we want our students to have reading role models at home, perhaps we should start graduating some.
But even if parents are readers, schools can actually hinder the process-

When our oldest daughter was in high school, the major activity in her English classes was watching movies adapted from books she never read. Our fourth grader spends her days cranking out endless test practice worksheets and reading Pollyanna for two months. It is all we can do to keep the reading fires burning in the deluge of soul-killing reading instruction our daughters receive at school.
At least some schools and teachers are acknowledging that testing focused methods are not really productive in the long run.

The author of the blog, Donalyn Miller, is a teacher who uses more of a ‘delight-directed’ approach in her classroom to inspire kids to read- but she doesn’t go overboard with an ‘it doesn’t matter what they read as long as they are reading’ attitude. I think her posts and her book (titled The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child) are helpful not just to teachers but to parents as well. I especially recommend her to homeschoolers, and she links to many resources that are helpful.

It has taken completely different approaches to inspire my kids to read. With Seth, all I had to do was tell him that he could stay up at night as late as he wanted as long as he was reading. Noah, however, was a very reluctant reader. I hooked him by a rather convoluted process- first, I checked out old radio shows on cassette and CD from the library- he loved The Shadow, Dragnet, The Lone Ranger and Fibber McGee and Molly. Then I slid in some audiobooks, like the Pendragon series, and from there it was easy. He had to understand for himself that reading really was enjoyable.

Emma Jo never had to be convinced to read, thankfully. And I really needed the break, because now I have another boy that needs convincing that reading is fun. Kenny has no interest in audiobooks, but loves listening to me read, especially if I do voices for the characters.] We are reading Dracula together right now (and discussing the current vampire craze)- so just picture the girl with the hillbilly twang doing convincing British and Romanian accents. Yes, it’s hilarious.

My parents didn’t come across to me as readers (even though I know my dad read alot), but they taught my brother and I to read at a young age, they disposed of the television, there was no such thing as a video game, and a trip to the library was like Christmas where the gifts were free.

Robert Heinlein’s Juveniles, his adult stuff is better left to adults.

Andre Norton

Louis L’Amour’s Westerns.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..