How To Get Boys To Read

How do you get boys to read? And not just read, how do you get them to really enjoy reading books for pleasure, as a pastime? Somehow it’s easier to get girls to read. Not too long ago, my daughter had a few friends to sleep over. My son, who is six years younger, was mortified when he tried to sneak into her room where they were sleeping in order to do his annoying-little-brother-routine, only to find them all awake, each with a book, quietly reading!

He ran to my bedroom, as this was about 8 am on a Saturday morning,
“Mom, mom, do you know what Jessica and her friends are doing?”
Since these are teenage girls and since the house was so quiet, I was immediately alarmed— the worst came to mind—smoking pot? Watching porno online? What could cause such alarm?

“They are all reading books!” he exclaimed in shock and disgust, “Who does that? Who wastes time at a sleep-over reading?!? Are they the biggest nerds, or what?!?!”

These girls by no means consider themselves nerds. They just simply share a profound joy of reading. This is something I want for my son, too. I sincerely believe that he will come to it eventually because he lives in a household of readers. But since I know that the sooner he becomes a consumer of the written word, the better his school life will be and the more fulfilled he will be as an intellectual, I want him to be an outright bibliophile, like me…and I want it now!!

I have tried many things. And he is not adverse to reading. Reading is just not something he chooses first (or even second) given easier, more immediate forms of entertainment, like T.V. or video games. So I’ve started looking around to see what others have done or suggest. He is in the fifth grade and I am determined to help him become a ravenous reader by Middle School…that’s next year.

Here are some suggestions I’m going to try:

1.John Hechinger, in his Wall Street Journal article last summer, Problem: Boys Don’t Like to Read. Solution: Books That Are Really Gross, suggests that boys are interested in anything gross. His article gives some interesting recommendations. Click HERE to see his list of gross books for boys.

2.The Best Website EVER for this topic is I won’t even waste your time disciphering all that is said there. Go there right now. All of the articles and suggestions are priceless. I DO NOT believe in reinventing the wheel. This site says it all. Many of the articles remind me of one important activity. Reading Aloud! We used to do this (see below), but as he got older I stopped.

3.Do Like the Homeschoolers— As I read all that is passed on at the above websites, I am reminded that my son was on the road to super-readerhood when we homeschooled. When we were homeschooling, I was able to do two important things that I no longer do. Then, my son and I read together constantly. Even after he could read, we continued to read together and aloud—me to him and him to me. The other thing we could do was read while doing. When I was reading to him, I let him move around, sometimes even play with things. It was amazing how well he listened while he moved. This is an important thing for young boys. They are able to listen better when allowed to be active. So I’m going to go back to reading together aloud and see if this still works at 10 years-old. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Okay, that’s all I have… Now go to You’ll be glad you did!!!

2010 Update: So now that my son is a middle schooler and in the throws of pre-adolescence, reading is still not something he is obsessed with. But when he is choosing a book, he has begun to make a bee-line to Walter Dean Myers. Though some of the titles include topics that are somewhat mature, often covering drugs and some street violence, they keep my enthralled. They are, of course, well written. Mr. Myers is an highly regarded and award-winning author. And he keeps my son interested and talking about what is happening in the books. Yes! He actually likes to discuss these books while he is reading them. Can’t get much better than that. Below are the books my son has read.


Click HERE for a listing of other Walter Dean Myers young adult offerings!

Happy Reading!

(This article previously posted on 10/26/2010.)



  1. this is such a good post!!!!!! im going to foward this to everyone…this is a wonderful blog!
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  2. I don't have any boys yet but my 6yo daughter LOVES to read and I thought I would add that she has always moved/played while I read to her. I used to wonder if she was even able to pay attention when she did this but she totally does. She asks questions and can relate back what's going on. So don't think because kids–boys or girls–don't look like they're actively paying attention that they aren't totally soaking up the language, if not the actual story. They learn a lot about reading–sentence structure, pronunciation and other sounds, appropriate places to pause, etc, by listening to someone read, even if they're not following the story 100%. My daughter reads books that I'm sure are far beyond her ability to “get” completely, but she still enjoys it.

    And that's the point right? Kids who enjoy reading read well. The goal should be to help kids enjoy reading (and then they will read well), NOT to get them to read well so they can someday learn to enjoy it!

    I would absolutely avoid any kind of reward/incentive program for struggling or disinterested readers. It usually makes the problem all the worse. I say read a lot to them, read a lot yourself, keep lots of really good, classic, fascinating books around, and let it come when it does. Don't push, there is no rush.

  3. Gina Carroll says:

    You are so right, Simply Mother! I am lucky because my son LOOOVVVEES words. He has always enjoyed linquistics– the sound and use of words and language. So he should have a natural affinity to reading, right? It's still been an effort. But reading aloud and together has absolutely been key. And the freedom to move is one of those non-intuitive realities that can really make a difference…as you say, for both genders.

    Thanks for taking the time to leave your wisdom and experience!

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