Getting Boys to Read

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Getting boys to read is less about force and more about creativity. Here, I share some easy tips to get your boy’s nose in the books (at least, between innings).

get boys to read

No, not all boys have trouble wanting to read. And not all girls are natural bibliophiles. However, in general, getting many boys to read can take some understanding and skill. Here are some great ideas to help get your boy excited about reading!

What We're After

Sometimes, before figuring out how to do something, we need to figure out why.

Here are a few reasons we homeschool mamas should want to get our boys interested in reading:

1. Jesus is the WORD. God expresses Himself to us in Creation and the Word, therefore it’s important for all of us to enjoy Creation and Words. We want to create strong literacy in our boys so their aptitude toward reading and comprehending Scripture can grow. We are to “Love the Lord our God with all of (our) mind,” therefore, we are called to be good stewards of our minds. One of our jobs as Mamas is to teach our boys that their minds are a gift from the Lord to be stewarded to the fullest of their potential for their edification and for His glory. 

2. The Bible is a BOOK. Although teaching teeny tiny ones to read is not all that necessary, it is also unnecessary to follow the slow reading movement that stays away from formal phonics and reading instruction until a child is much older, if for only the reason that the Bible is a Book. Yes, reading the Bible aloud and on audio recording is just as valuable, however, I have always made it my aim to get my kiddos reading as early as possible for the sake of Scripture reading. When we sit as a family and sing hymns, I love that my children can read the words of the fourth verses and sing along. Or that they can take a turn reading a verse out loud in the schoolroom. There is no hard and fast rule here, but I have always found it important to teach reading to my children at the full scale of each of their abilities at early ages (which vary between children). 

3. Reading is good for your brain. According to Healthline, reading strengthens your brain, increases your ability to empathize, reduces stress, and builds your vocabulary. Leaders are readers, and reading gives your child access to knowledge outside of their normal scope of living.



get boys to read 1

Why is it so Tricky to Get Boys to Read?

There are so, so many reasons boys tend to read less than girls, much having to do with their phsyical makeup. 

  • Boys score lower in Reading than girls in all grade levels
  • Boys, even in infancy, are more physically active than girls
  • Girls develop verbal skills earlier and with more fluency than boys
  • Later readers tend to self-identify as such and have more difficulty establishing themselves as readers
  • Boys are much more likely than girls to struggle finding “something they like to read.”

Work WITH Physiology, Not Against It!

Rather than fighting against nature, we can work with the above list to set our boys up for success, realizing that:

  • They are not girls
  • That’s okay
  • They need to love reading anyway

In our house, you aren’t allowed to not love reading. But it’s my job as Mama to figure out how to make that happen!

1. Don't Force It.

A surefire way to discourage a developing reader is give him a stack of books he has to read that he has absolutely no interest in. Yes, it is important to develop the skill of reading many different things. But we aren’t there yet. We are developing a LOVE for reading by developing a channel for them. There has to be buy-in. They have to learn that reading is a channel that gets them something they desire. Not all boys are going to desire reading for reading’s sake. My girls will read All. Day. Long. It’s cozy, lovely, and relaxing for them. My boys will play in the yard All. Day. Long. They find more joy in being physically active. But just like it wouldn’t be good for my daughters to sit around all day and not be physically active, I can’t just pass my boys off all day and not exercise their reading brains. I don’t have to ask my girls to read. I don’t have to ask my boys to go outside and play. But vice versa? It takes some maneuvering at times!

As their aptitude and confidence grows, their ability to branch out, even to books that aren’t their favorite, is going to grow. Our aim is to get boys to see reading as the simplest means to get something they desire. 

The way we do that? Find a HOOK.

2. Find a Hook

God made your son unique, and he is going to have certain things that he is just naturally drawn to. It may be wildlife. It may be cars. It may be sports. It may be dinosaurs. Airplanes, war stories, tractors, hydrothermal vents, National Parks, Ancient Egyptian Mummies, Volcanoes, Sharks, Technology. Maybe none from this list, maybe several!

THIS is where you begin. FIND a HOOK and put some big fat juicy worms on it.

If your son expresses interest in a subject, track down as many resources in that vein as you can come up with. And think outside of the box! Outside of the normal paperbacks, look for reference books, magazines or field guides. A fictional novel on a little house finch would have zero use to my son. But one of these?

I’ll find it under his pillow with a flashlight and it’ll be memorized by the weekend.

Find the hook. Think outside of the box.

3. Display Matters

Do you ever ask a child to get you something from the refrigerator and they swear up and down it isn’t there, only for you to look and move the milk and find the item instantaneously? Met with a sheepish “Oh. I didn’t see that. Sorry.” 

The same thing happens with books. Books that live on shelves and have always lived on shelves with their spines facing out become white noise to boys. Have a book on George Washington you think your son would like but don’t want to assign it? Grab a few of these little guys to keep on hand and pull the book out to display it!

There’s a reason Public Libraries display all of those…ahem…you know…super awesome books face out (the ones we sneakily pull down and replace with the good stuff). When they haven’t seen something in a while and all of a sudden something new is out on display, chances are it will get picked up. 

Display is advertising. Your dear consumer believes they are choosing this item of their own volition. But oh! They do not know your little tricks!

4. Choose Great Content.

If I wanted you to be a healthy eater, I wouldn’t stick brownies in front of you everyday hoping that your affinity for and exercise in the eating arts would make you a salad lover. That’s counterintuitive! Same goes for books. If you don’t want your kid just reading junk, you are going to have to find a hook that is good. 

1. You may answer by saying all your boy wants to do is play video games. If this is the case…

Chuck the screens for a while. Or forever. No brownies? Hungry? Oh, some veggies just happen to be on display? Don’t mind if I do. No screens? Bored? Oh, there just happens to be a book on Giants in the Bible on Display? Hmmm…..

2. You may retort that there isn’t really anything you can think of that your son is into. If this is the case…

Here may be a little trick to see what might be locked away in that little heart of his. What TYPE of toys does he like to play with? What KIND of shows does he like to watch? What does he do during his free play time? Now think about the core trait that is drawing him to that thing. Is it the fight between good and evil? Is it interesting animal facts? Is it things with motors? Is it historical figures? There are bound to be plenty of things bound up in his heart just waiting for a channel to burst out.


5. Be an Awesome Boy Mom

You don’t have to love doing everything your son loves to do, but you do need to love that your son loves the things that he does. Being an awesome boy mom is about LETTING YOUR SON BE A BOY. Let him be rough and tumble. Let him give you his hardest high five. Let him explore and be physical. Enjoy the things he loves, even if that’s giant poisonous centipedes. You don’t have to be a tomboy, but you do have to be his biggest cheerleader.

Boys are active. Embrace that! If he has a hard time sitting still, get him something to fidget with while he reads. Let him squeeze a stress ball or thinking putty. Take jump breaks! Or, let him bounce on an exercise ball. Let him expend physical energy to help him focus his brain. When my sons hit a wall, I can just look at them and they know…get your sneakers on and go run a lap around the property and up the hill. Just like their Daddy, sometimes they need to burn off some physical energy to get their minds to focus. That is not hyperactivity. That’s boyhood!

Snips and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails

That’s what little boys are made of! Enjoy teaching your sweet man-child that reading is awesome. Just do it in the way that he can buy into. Point him to Jesus, who created him to be a boy, and do your best mama job giving him everything you can to get your boy to love reading!

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Amy Barnes

Wife and Mom-of-6 who loves Jesus and is passionate about sharing true and wholesome resources with the homeschooling community

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