How do we get boys excited about reading? To be honest, I didn’t even know this was a problem, until I met a lot of parents during my book tours, who told me their sons didn’t like to read. No matter how excited the boys were to meet me in costume, to look over the beautifully illustrated covers, or to talk to be about books, these same boys when asked if they would read the books, usually replied, “Probably not.”

Probably not? Are you kidding me? When I was young, I loved reading. And most of the boys I went to school with loved reading too. What happened?

Parents and teachers tell me that video games, the Internet and an overall association with reading as “girly” killed the love of books for young boys.

So I asked, “What can we do?” Boys grow up, and men need to read! This is no longer a world where brute power will pay the rent. Reading, language and communication are vital for success—today more than ever!
If you’re a parent struggling with a reluctant reader, let’s get started. There are ways to inspire a love of literature in any kid. We just need to find the right material for them.

Not surprisingly, boys prefer to read about action. Girls love fictional stories where characters delve into an emotional world of feelings and have emotional revelations. Most boys do not. They like non-fiction. They like to learn how to build robots or study the physical nature of rocket ships. Boys prefer history lessons of real events: of battles, or wars, or heroic personal quests. This is great news! We have a place to start.

We can take the analytical storybooks back to the library and grab up everything we can find with action. Bring home non-fiction books on war. Coax them away from their computer games with a book about space or a space hero. Even newspapers are a great place to start. Newspapers are an excellent place to find exciting action stories, and boys will especially connect with the modern or local aspects of the story. Articles like these tend to be short and pack a lot of punch. To take their energy levels about reading up a notch, read the article or nonfiction text first and surprise them by discussing it. Avoid the common, “How would it feel…” questions and go for the high energy questions like “What do you think a rocket ship sounds like when it blasts off? Would you like to live in a place without gravity? How brave was that firefighter when he ran into the burning house to save all those people?” Use your son’s interest in spatial relationships to have him draw a map of a battlefield, or set up a pretend fort in the living room and play-out a scene from something he’s read.

Once boys begin to learn how fun and interesting reading can be, you can grow their reading pallet by introducing them to fictional books about epic heroes who make strong choices to conquer enemies or govern fate. Find male authors your son will resonate with. This shows him real men not only read, but write as well. Most male role models are sports stars. It’s important to introduce your son to other types of role models, and authors can be a great place to start. Move on to female authors to diversify and expand his tastes.
When searching for entertaining male storylines, include Hemingway, Twain and Dostoyevsky in your searches. Boys in middle and high school will appreciate the strength of these stories. For younger boys, look for picture books and chapter books with boys doing great things: over the top things, exciting things or slightly dangerous things. In Lady Jenniviere’s Quill, male characters take charge of their situations by exercising exciting action

Boys need help these days finding the right type of literature. Let them know that reading is important to you and they will naturally find reading more attractive. Young children mirror their parent’s actions. When they see you enjoying a good book, they will be more curious about reading and take an interest themselves. Of course reading out loud to them is a wonderful activity and will help them read and absorb words much quicker on their own.

The important thing, is to keep promoting books, both fiction and nonfiction. Keep prompting them to share a good newspaper article with you, or to read a magazine and learn something new. Make sure they aren’t only reading school books and assigned texts—this teaches them that reading is work and should be avoided during play time. Give them interesting stories that they personally enjoy and soon they’ll be seeking out reading material. The more they read, the better they will understand language. That understanding will make them better communicators.

Now take action--find something exciting to read!

J. Von Scurlock

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