I like to think my son is unique, that there’s no one else exactly like him. But when it comes to reading, I’m afraid he’s a pretty typical boy: he doesn’t like it. Not liking reading has a significant impact on boys’ ability to read. Since 1992, more boys score below the proficiency level than girls on the National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test. The boy-girl gap is found in every socio-economic and ethnic category. All over America, girls have it all over boys in reading.
Getting our son to read has been a lifelong challenge. We’ve done everything from setting a good example—my husband and I are voracious readers—to setting daily reading goals. Here are three strategies that have worked well for us.
Read to your children, no matter what their age. I’m always amazed when parents stop reading to their children once their children learn to read. Imagine reading nothing but “Mat sat. Pat sat.” You’d probably turn off reading pretty quickly. Can’t find time to read to your kids? Listen to books in the car. My children and I listened to all of the Harry Potter books before they were able to read them for themselves.
Let them read what they want to read. I resisted Captain Underpants at first, but my son devoured them so I relented. He also enjoyed books about Kung Fu, magic and dragons. Some of his favorite authors were Jeff Stone, Annie Sage, Nancy Farmer and Rick Riordan.
Now that he’s older, most of my son’s reading is in magazines, like Rolling Stone and Game Informer, or articles on the Internet. Maybe it’s not great literature, but he’s reading and that’s what counts. You may find your son expanding your own reading horizons. I wouldn’t have read Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card if my son hadn’t insisted. I still think it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read.
Reward reading. I wish my son saw reading as its own reward. Some day he may, but until then I’m not above a bribe. Kids who read over summer break do better when they start school again in the fall. Just four books is enough to make a difference, so I paid my son $5 for every book he read last summer. He had to read a minimum of four books, but could read as many as he wanted. He read four. I was fine with that.
I like to think that iPads, Nooks, Kindles and other e-reading devices could help turn more boys into avid readers. Certainly, an interactive reading experience has its appeal. But, feeding reading doesn’t have to break the bank. happens to have a terrific and, even better, some really terrific librarians ready to recommend books even the most reticent reader will enjoy.