Inspiring Boys to Become Lifelong Readers

March is National Reading Month, a great occasion for parents to address one of the most vexing questions: how do we inspire our boys to enjoy reading as much as our girls? Experts suggest that parents do the following to make boys into lifelong readers:

Make Reading Material Widely Available

One way to inspire boys to read, says Dr. Patricia Furstenberg, a medical doctor and children’s book author, is simply to “leave reading material around the house.” Melissa Fenton, a children’s librarian, agrees. She recommends that parents “keep books all over the house, in all the places your boys will be: by their bedside, on the breakfast table to encourage reading over cereal, on coffee tables, end tables and even in the bathroom.” She even suggests that parents create a book display corner and highlight seasonal and holiday titles, like bookstores do to entice customers. The message should be clear: reading is fun, and there’s a lot of it to be enjoyed.

Help Them Find Interesting Things to Read

Help your sons find reading materials that interests them. Drs. Paula Schwanenflugel and Nancy Knapp, the authors of The Psychology of Reading: Theory and Applications, say that parents should “let boys choose, and help them find, the kind of books and other materials they want to read.” While you don’t want to unnecessarily limit your sons’ reading interests, studies show that boys prefer to read about topics that relate to their lives, interests and imagination.

Dr. Jeff Wilhelm, a professor of English Education, sums it up well: “boys like to read what’s toolish, not schoolish,” meaning that “boys prefer reading things that have something they can immediately use, talk about, argue about or do something with.”

Take Them to the Library

Take them to the library and let them explore available books and collections. As Furstenberg says, “let your son wander around the library, pick a book and sit down to page through it.” Fenton agrees, suggesting that parents should make visit to the library “a family habit, and as common as a regular visit to the grocery store.” Young boys can browse shelves with picture books on their own, while older boys can read book summaries and use the electronic catalogue to search for books that they find interesting. In a nutshell, going to the library shouldn’t be something for rare or special occasions, but rather a regular activity that your entire family looks forward to doing together.

Let Your Sons See You Read

It’s important that your sons see you read. Dr. Margaret Merga, a literacy researcher, says that parents serve as role models for their sons: “let them see you read for pleasure.” Furstenberg agrees: “children often mimic what they see, not what they hear and we, as parents, are our children’s mirrors.” Instead of reading just when you’re alone having a quiet time, let your sons see you absorbed in reading a book or magazine. It’ll inspire them to read, too.

Expand Your Idea of What Counts as Reading

Finally, but not least importantly, don’t think that only “serious” literature counts as reading. Fenton says that “just because your son isn’t devouring thick fiction chapter books at all times doesn’t mean he isn’t reading quality material. For boys, consider many different forms of written word as reading; comic books, manga, joke books, magazines and even blogs.” Jon Scieszka, a children’s book author, agrees: “let boys know that nonfiction reading is reading. Magazines, newspapers, websites, biographies, science books, comic books, graphic novels are all reading material.” Accept newer, alternative forms of reading, like audiobooks. “If your son insists on having earbuds in his ears all the time,” says Fenton, “have him try an audiobook.”


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