On Boys and Reading

Because one of my  New Year’s resolutions is to do a better job of encouraging my sons to read, I asked my colleague, Mary Gauthier, who is something of an expert on boys’ learning, for advice. She gave me 7 good suggestions:

1) Make sure your boy transfers from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” This usually happens anywhere between late grade one to late grade 3 (and no — it has nothing to do with ability)…. Allow the reading process to unfold. If you feel your boys is struggling,  try some books on tape where he can follow the text. Nothing is more frustrating for a boy (and nothing makes a boy hate reading more) than reading books that are too difficult.

2) Read to your son!!! When he starts reading on his own…still read to him. Read a book together (take turns reading pages..if the book is not too difficult for him.)

3) Help your son develop his “inner ” voice when reading. (This is for younger boys). Many non readers are non readers because they have not developed an inner voice. Asking questions such as: “Why do you think his mother said that?” “What do you think will happen next?” or “Were there any hints that this would happen?”or even…ask your son to ask you a question!

4) Find other reading models in your family!!! Is there an uncle or nephew or family friend who can share books with your son?

5) Boys do like fiction but look at different genres..ie graphic novels (don’t knock them till you have tried them!)

6) Limit TV and Tech

7) Take your son to the library and let him pick out his own books.


If you have other suggestions, please send them along. Thanks!


5 thoughts on “On Boys and Reading

  1. The IBSC has noted, in their action research piece on boys and writing, that having an authentic audience is a key component to motivating boys to read. I’ve found that the same is true when motivating boys to read. The finest example is the case of “Joey”:

    In September I sat down to read with “Joey” after noticing some weaknesses in his spelling in his early written work. We went to the library where I shared ‘The Stinky Cheese Man’ with him. When it was his turn to read, we discussed reading a whole sentence at once (rather than his current word by word method). I asked him to take the book home and practice this, especially coming up with interesting voices for the various characters. A quick call home that afternoon had his Mom asking him to read to her that night, and an email to his older brother, who attends a Northeast Boys’ Boarding School (and happens to be Joey’s hero) had a Skyped request for him to read on a video call the next evening. A tipped-off librarian ‘accidently’ heard him reading to me the next week when I pulled him from a specialist class to read to me again, and requested that he read to the Grade 2s that were ‘coincidentally’ about to read the Munsch book we were reading. Joey positively glowed each time he was asked to read – so much so that I don’t imagine the memory of him reading to those Grade 2s will ever leave me.

    Since that time Joey’s writing, spelling, and reading have taken off. His mother complained just before Christmas that she was having to spend too much money on new novels. As I noted earlier, an audience was the key for Joey to become motivated to pick up books (and magazines, and our classroom daily newspaper that he always requests to take home).

    Other suggestions for having a regular audience available that I use in my fifth grade classroom:

    1) Quick Writes – allow the children to write about topics of their choice for 8 minutes (the key being that their pencils/pens never stop moving) and then allow them to read their pieces. Always have three peer-suggested topics for those with writer’s block. The Author’s Chair follows where chosen and randomly selected students can share their writing. Most of the boys write hilarious pieces – but occasionally they come out with something deep, emiotional, and/or profound that silences the class in a moment of comtemplation.
    2) Send students to read to other teachers, and your Head of School (what else is he doing anyways?!?!?) 😉
    3) Daily ‘In the News’ – used many classrooms, it is a daily report on a newspaper or internet story of interest by a students to the other students.

    Perhaps some of these suggestions can be modified to work for parents.

    1. In our local school a beloved Grade 1-2 teacher had each student in her class do a “poetry and cookies” session once a year. They were to bake some treats for the entire class at home (measuring =math ; recipes= reading) and read a poem of their choice (short or long) to the class the next day after handing out the treats. The best part was going around the school with any leftover treats and re-reading the poem to anyone they wanted- the janitor, gym teacher etc. Reading can be creative and fun!

  2. Those are great suggestions, Jim.
    Here are a few of mine.
    1. For the parents of an elementary school boy: If your son wants to read material easier than what he can read, let him do so. It is only a phase.
    2. Leave books of interest around the house. Remember the bathroom!
    3.On holiday, use some family time for everyone to read at the same time. Before breakfast or late afternoon works for us.
    4.Support independent book stores, especially independent children’s/young adult bookstores.The staff are very knowledgeable, and can help you find books your son might enjoy. In Toronto, The Flying Dragon Bookshop, Another Story Bookshop,and Mabel’s Fables are all terrific. When in Montreal, check out Babar Books.
    5.Goodwill sells loads of wonderful books at great prices.You can donate your son’s books back to Goodwill when he outgrows them, and feel good about helping the environment by practicing the three R’s of waste management: Reduce, reuse, and recycle!

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