A few years ago, a kid told my son that only geeks like books and that reading is stupid. Can you believe that! My son just laughed and replied with something along the lines of, “And that is why I am and always will be smarter than you.” It was snarky, but I was so proud of that comeback.
Did you know that 80% of families in the United States have not read a story together in the past year, and 42% of high school graduates will never read another book for the rest of their lives. Those really are heartbreaking statistics, but if you think those statistics are bad, they are even worse when you take girls out of the equation and tally up how much boys read.
Getting boys interested in books can be quite a challenge and one of the top questions that I receive from readers and friends is, “How did you get your son to enjoy reading so much?” Today, I am going to share some of my personal tips with you, along with the advice from some of my brilliant friends.
What I Did (and still do)
- My son has not had a real bedtime since he was 6. He does have to go into his room at 8:30, but he can stay up as late as he wants reading.
- Both my husband and I read to him every single day. I actually still read to him every day and he is 13.
- There are cozy nooks all over the house, with certain themes of books and lots of pillows.
- I leave stacks of books laying around the house, sometimes open to certain pages. This is known as strewing.
- I made a big deal out of how special it is to just lay around the house in pajamas, reading books.
- We take trips to the library once or twice a week.
- To encourage a variety of books, before we got out of the car, I had my son choose a random Dewey decimal number and then we would go to aisle and select some books. He discovered some very interesting topics that he never would have dreamed of choosing on his own. This doesn’t work as well now that he practically has the system memorized.
- I often read the first chapter or two of a new book out loud to him and then I would leave the book out and ignore it. He would usually finish it on his own.
- I would show him the exciting trailer of a movie and then tell him we could watch the movie after we read the book. I still do this and we have a strict rule that if there is a book available, we must read the book before watching the movie.
- We bought him a Kindle and loaded it up with eBooks.
- We signed up for OysterBooks, which is like Netflix for books. If you sign up using my referral link, you’ll receive a $15 credit, plus I’ll get a free month!
- We had a tournament of books.
- Currently, my son and I often read the same book, at the same time, on our Kindles. We highly interesting sections and send quotes to each other via email. The Kindle makes it really easy to do so.
- If there is an exact audio book available, sometimes we will listen to the audio as we read along in the book.
The two humongous bookshelves that my husband built for me. Unfortunately, they currently do not look this clean and organized. Seeing these old photos actually motivates me to reorganize them!
What Reading Has Done for My Son
I have learned, and seen first hand, that boys do tend to gravitate toward encyclopedia type books – and that is totally fine! I have never had issues getting my son to read non-fiction, it was fiction that he was so against for awhile. However, eventually, with my encouragement and the tips above, he learned to love fiction.
He became captivated by that tiny Indian in the mysterious cupboard; angered by the injustice poured out on the boys in Holes; heartbroken by the deaths of so many soldiers in The Red Badge of Courage; motivated to explore like the Wright Family, Professor Lidenbrock, and the Hobbits; and inspired by Tyce, the paralyzed boy in Robot Wars who doesn’t let anything hold him back. Reading fiction books with great characters has many benefits for children. Harry Potter taught loyalty and courage; Jotham taught devotion to Christ; the Pevensie siblings taught forgiveness and grace; Robin Hood taught the importance of standing up for those who cannot do it for themselves; and Mrs. Frisby taught sacrifice.
Expert Advice from My Dear Friends
I am an avid reader that is married to a nonreader… Sure my brilliant husband knows how to read, but he doesn’t enjoy it. My sons enjoyed the good no-twaddle literature I made them read with school, but they would never seek out these books in their free time. In hopes of teaching my boys that reading is fun, I purchased and checked out horribly boy friendly books like Captain Underpants! Over time and with a token incentive system (one poker chip for 30 minutes of reading can be redeemed for 30 minutes of screen time). After having read the same books over and over, they became excited about finding new books at the library. They realized that a bag of books sure make the time pass quickly when you are driving. Or waiting for appointments. For tween boys, we loved any and all books by Max Elliott Anderson. Not too long of a book and action from page 1.
I made sure to read to my sons all the time and I kept fun, boy-friendly books around. Also, they earned their screen time by reading, and got double minutes if they read out loud to a younger child. We made frequent trips to the library so they could pick out fun books, too. Both of the boys still are avid readers.
My advice is to let them read what they love as much as possible. If it’s a steady diet of Calvin and Hobbes, enjoy that season: laugh with them over the antics of the characters and take delight in the story line. If reading is joyful, they’ll grow up thinking it’s a good thing, even if they don’t become adults with a stack of books next to the bed.
We always used interest-based books. Once I had my three boys hooked on reading (and convinced that I was a book-choosing genius) they were open to all sorts of books.
Ever since they were little, we have had Thursday night designated as book night. When they were smaller I would read to them. As they got older, and resistant to continuing the practice, I added things that appealed to them. For example, only on Thursdays do we do special things like eat s’mores, drink hot cocoa and watermelon punch, bring pillows and blankets to the couch, etc. so that they began to look forward to it. Also, they were not allowed to put their feet on or lounge on the furniture unless it was book night. It became a game to see how much of their body they could fit into their spot. This was a fun challenge for teenage boys! And of course, they always try to top each other with the adventure in their books. I’ve become used to losing the “amazing book” game since I always read non-fiction. It just can’t compare to knights, wars, Vikings, and pirates who dance in spandex.
Our kids always have individual quiet time from 1-3pm and they can either sleep or read. They always choose to read. I require them to check out non-fiction and biography every time we go to the library in addition to their choices, and I try to help them find good series for themselves. We also have assigned reading that isn’t dry. It’s about variety and frequency. So they read daily, have variety, and I am also helping to make it easier for them to appreciate good books and have a good selection to keep encouraging reading. Books on tape are great too
My boys read 2 books simultaneously. 1 is free choice, within reason, but I’m pretty tolerant as long as it’s not, you know, equivalent to r-rated. The other is my choice. Each has a Kindle and a library of paper avail to them. Each has been pretty intrinsically motivated, so far.
We always have a stack of books within arm’s reach where ever we sit or stand in our house. I made sure to have a huge collection and variety of high-interest books always available at home, and the boys could pick and choose from there. The boys always have a book along when we go somewhere, so they can fill the moments of downtime or waiting. In general, we don’t pack our family schedule too tightly and our homeschool schedule is quite relaxed, so the boys have plenty of downtime to read.
Reading is a huge part of our home, and our school time. I read aloud to them for a couple of hours at a time a couple times per week (nonfiction and novels), and we always have a lunch read-aloud going too. My kids are 14 down to 7 and the oldest still loves when I read aloud. We are a Montessori family, and so learning to read was all about phonics, hands-on activities, moveable alphabet, and other fun ways to break down words. My youngest is the only one who doesn’t love reading, but he reads well and does so when it’s required (with minimal fuss, LOL). I don’t make it a big deal, but the steady diet of really good literature in our home is very important.
Since the kids were little, we went to the library at least one time per week. The are allowed 2 “junk books” and as many good quality books (nonfiction or fiction) as they want. It’s not unusual for us to have hundreds of library books in our book baskets in the living room. I define junk books as anything pop-culture, or written as part of a formulaic series (think TV show books for preschoolers, or Diary of Wimpy Kid for older ones) or with a really poor writing style. We talk about why it’s important to put healthy words and stories in our minds, as we put healthy things in our bodies. They sometimes are allowed junk food, so the same goes for junk books. If it’s not a steady diet of those things, then we can enjoy the fluff on occasion. I make sure I am always reading in front of them, or talking about books to them, and I stick to the same guidelines as they do. Books have become such good friends to us, friends we share and will be able to reminisce about forever.
Don’t stress about it. Set them up to want to read. I talk to them about what I’m reading — and have forever. My oldest had a negative experience in first grade before we pulled him out to homeschool, and it totally soured him on reading. During that period afterwards, when he was anti-books, I read aloud often. Once he started asking me to read more and more, I actually started reading a bit less, stopping at cliff-hangers, and leaving the books where he’d be likely to pick them up to finish on his own. Now… I can’t get him to go to bed half the time because he always has his nose in a book.
Skip school for a reading day: pizza, popcorn, pop, and a pile of great adventure books. Make it a special day full of treats and wonderful memories. I’ve yet to have a son who didn’t leap at the chance to avoid school in favor of pizza, popcorn, and pop.
Buy them books in their interest. My boys are devouring Minecraft books right now. Oh, and be willing to let them read comics.
We have books in every room here, so my boys are surrounded by them at all times. I also have a rule where the kids must go to bed by a certain time *but* they can stay up reading as late as they’d like.
Like most young boys, my son is very active. He will sit for long periods of time to build with LEGO or work on his whip weaving skills but he has always been a reluctant reader. I’ve found that reading together and listening to audio books helps us to connect with one another as well as inspire him to discover new worlds through quality literature.
When they’re first learning, don’t force reading. If they want to go through their favorite story book and just tell it from the pictures, that’s perfectly fine! It can be a real struggle to sound out every word in a full length book, so building comprehension from the pictures is great too! We want our boys to love books, not loathe them because every time they grab a book we are expecting them to read every word every time. Also, finding a books based off of tv shows or movies that they know and love helps a lot. We have stacks of Frozen books and Jake and the Neverland Pirates.
My son reads for information — sports statistics, world record books, etc. He also loves to read COMICS — Peanuts, Garfield. He doesn’t enjoy so many traditional “Chapter books”, but I’m ok with that right now – because at least he is READING.
Create a boy friendly environment. This means to respect the fact that because they are boys they will learn differently than girls and at a different rate. Don’t insist on the same boring readiness skills like coloring inside the lines that girls may tolerate. Embrace their need to move because boys will grow up to be men who love to read and will not always be wiggly.
It took a long time for me to get over the idea that the boys weren’t hard wired to sit completely still while listening to me read. I’ve learned to let the boys burn off their energy during story time. They’ve jumped on a mini-trampoline, played with Play-Dough, and splashed in the bathtub while listening to me read. I’m blessed that my husband loves to read, and he loves to read to our children. Over the years, he’s picked up much of the slack of nightly story times. The boys love it, and it offers them some one on one time with their dad.
To help my young boys develop a love of reading great books I started a book club. Each month we read aloud a different book and then we met with a small group of friends to discuss the book and complete several related hands-on activities. Through this process the books seemed to “come alive” for my guys and they understood how interesting and exciting books could be. They continually say book club is one of their favorite activities.
This post is part of an iHomeschool Network linkup devoted to frequently asked questions. Visit the linkup landing page to view more expert advice on such topics as How Do I Know if My Child Is Learning?, How to Teach Middle School and High School Science, How to Handle Homeschooling Burn Out, and How to Homeschool and Still Have a Clean House! I hope you’ll be blessed by the tips you’ll receive from these posts, including mine!
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