Boys and Reading


"A good book for a boy is one he wants to read"

James Moloney

JamesMoloneyIn recent years, there has been a large amount of information published on boys and reading and how to get boys to read. The following information aims to provide a simple and clear summary of the most important findings on this subject. We hope it will help you to help your son become a reader for life!

Why are Boys Reluctant Readers?

    Lack of male role models

    Research has found that many boys perceive reading as something that girls, mothers and 'nerdy' or 'uncool' kids do.  They don't see reading as manly and they only read when they are made to.  Unfortunately, most boys don't see men around them reading or see them value reading.2 Most studies have found that reading is of little interest to boys and that boys believe that 'real' men don't read. This stems primarily from a lack of male role models.

    Lack of appealing books

    Most of the books boys are asked to read simply don't appeal to them. Boys love to read books that match their image of themselves. They love books that: are full of action, are funny, poke fun at others (particularly adults) and, they usually love books that contain some gross or disgusting things! Unfortunately, these type of books are often criticised by adults and regarded as poor quality literature.

How Can we Make Boys Readers?

    Listed below are some of the most important strategies in making your son a reader.

      1). Present male role models who read

      Studies show that young people who read everyday are more likely to have a father or significant male in their life, who reads. Presenting male role models who read regularly, whether it is a father, brother, uncle or any other important male in your son's life, is perhaps the most important strategy in making a reader.

      So Dads, make a point of reading something in the presence of your son every day even if it is just the sports section of the newspaper.  Also read with your son, even if it is simple matter such as letters, junk mail, notes from school, newspapers, magazines such as TV guides and instructions. Talk about what you have read and show that you value reading (this goes for Mothers as well!).

      A cautionary note on reading with your son: do not ask him to read aloud, unless he wants to. Many children say they hate reading aloud to their parents. They feel 'set up' and criticised, and it only alienates them more from reading. If this is happening, don't ask your son to read to you! Read to them and just have a happy time together.

      2). Any reading is good reading

      It is important that you recognise that any book or reading material your son chooses to read is legitimate reading. Magazines, newspapers, websites, biographies, science books, comic books, graphic novels… are all reading material.

      Let your son choose a book that appeals to him, praise and value his book choices and talk about the books he has chosen.; Read some of your son's books yourself. Find out what other boys of the same age are enjoying. Ask other classmates, parents, teachers, and librarians. Get to know what type of book your son likes to read. Buybooks that appeal to your son and give them as rewards, treats and birthday presents.

      Realise that books that appeal to your son may not be award winning books or even those that have high 'literary value' as deemed by adults. Of course your son should gain access to high quality literature and this can be accomplished through adults reading such books to your son, both at home by you, and in the classroom (see point number 3).

      Allowing your son to read the books he enjoys is how, as Moloney (2000) states, "…we build a culture of books and reading amongst our boys… Books become a part of his life and his reading skills are constantly practised and improved, even though the quality of what he reads may not always meet with the approval of some.

      3). Read to your son

      Studies suggest that children who quickly become readers at school age, have had over 1000 books read to them before they started school.

      Of course, reading aloud to your son should not stop once he reaches school or even when he can read easily on his own. Reading to your son is when you can share the wonderful riches of high quality, award winning literature. As noted by Moloney (2000)

      "…once an adult takes over the effort of reading, a boy can sit back and enjoy access to more difficult texts which offer the "higher" qualities... That is why reading to your son is so vital and why it should continue as long as he still enjoys being read to, even at twelve or thirteen years of age." Reading aloud to your son can become a special, memorable times for you both.

      4). Encourage boys to enthuse each other

      Research shows that friends are the main source of advice of books to read.
      Capitalise on this where you can and have other boys tell your son what they have enjoyed reading or what they would recommend.

    You, your child and a book – these are the keys to helping your child become a reader.

    Some final words of advice from an eleven-year-old Australian boy (who is 'cool' and a reader) on getting boys to read:

    If you really want your son to read

    Get him the sort of book

    Some parents don't seem to see.

    It's all about image and being cool

    And a lot depends on what you read at school.

    Bugulugs Bum Thief


    Point Crime

    Paul Jennings

    The list goes on.

    At least they are not glued

    To a Nintendo playing Donkey Kong.

    So take my advice

    And you'll feel quite proud

    Please don't make them read aloud

    If you do

    They'll quit reading like a flash

    And your reading scheme

    Will fall down with a crash.

    So if you take my tips

    And do everything right

    Your son could be reading

    By tonight!

    Robert Chaseling, Aged 10

    References and Further Reading:

    Ideas for getting Boys to Read - James Moloney
    (From the book 'Boys and Books', ABC Books, 2000)

    Guys Read - a literary initiative for boys by Jon Scieszka

    'The Reading Bug...and how you can help your child to catch it.' By Paul Jennings.
    (Available in the parents' reference section in the MS/HS Library PE 028.5Jen)