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How to get boys reading

Common conception seems to be that fewer and fewer children are reading. But did you know that sales of children’s books rose by 16% over the past year, according to the Publishers’ Association?[1] It’s not all doom and gloom! Nevertheless, a full 76% of UK schoolteachers feel that boys struggle to read compared to girls. So, both in school and out, how can we get boys reading?

How To Get Boys Reading

There are a whole range of reasons why boys find it a little harder to read, and for them to actually enjoy it. But it’s absolutely possible to encourage your son to read, and to read for pleasure! The points outlined below are five key ways that you can get a boy on the right track to reading.

Be a role model

Children follow their role models. That’s no secret. Cally Smart, an English teacher and blogger, spoke to the Guardian about how “[t]he best role models seem to be dads, sports coaches and athletes, men the boys aspire to be. If they experience these men reading and sharing their love of books (any kind of books) then reading is not seen as a female occupation.”[2]

So when you think about it, does your son have any reading role models? Do you read, or does your partner read? If not, you may find it hard to encourage your son to read, given that you don’t. A study called the Kids and Family Reading Report found that of children whose parents read frequently, 53% read daily too. On the other hand, only a tiny 15% of children whose parents don’t read, read frequently.[3] So the first thing to do that can get your son reading is to learn to enjoy reading yourself!

Accept the odd distraction

Since boys more often struggle to read than girls, is the problem simply biology? Yes, and no. Both biologically and socially, boys are more inclined to spend time on either more interactive or more physical pursuits. Focus groups set up by the National Literacy Trust found that boys need to ‘run around and play’, and that boys had more trouble concentrating and ‘persevering’.[4]

This really strikes at the heart of a key problem. Boys are more easily distracted, and less easily invested in reading. But don’t let that discourage either you or your son. It would be all to easy to chastise him for getting distracted, or for not quite reading to the end of a book. But work around that by encouraging them to return to reading later; and don’t let it put you off, either, from reading with him.



Encourage your son to read independently

Being a parent to a son, you’ll know full well that your boy likes to be independent. And that applies to reading too. Now, it’s impossible to do anything but read aloud to your son for the first part of their development. But research shows that once they’re old enough, you should have your son read aloud rather than keep reading to him. Only you can be the judge of when is the best time, but as soon as possible is best.

Studies show that independent reading is the best predictor of whether a child will perform better in reading tests.[5] In other words, your son will only really start to engage with reading material when they have to read it for themselves. Once they do start reading independently, their reading comprehension and general attainment at school will only improve.[6] So how is it actually possible to cajole your son into reading on their own? Well…

Read around your son’s interests

One of the main reasons why boys fail to pick up on reading for pleasure or for education is because they can think that it’s ’girly’.[7] Of course, nobody ever tells a boy that reading is girly; but they pick up the idea from the fact that girls do seem more comfortable reading than running, jumping and climbing trees. So to banish the idea once and for all, you have to make sure that you read around your son’s interests. The best way? Go to the library, and let them pick out whatever they like!

The exact topic doesn’t matter. It could be dinosaurs (and, at least at some point, it most likely will be dinosaurs), it could be science, it could be history… Anything. This is absolutely crucial, because before you or your son’s teacher tell him that he has to read XYZ book about fractions or what have you, he’ll have picked up the reading bug. Your son will have a more positive association with reading as something that he enjoys and has control over, rather than reading being an expression of what his teacher wants him to do. And that can make all the difference.

Reinforce positive behaviours

The final suggestion on how to get boys into reading is through reinforcing positive behaviour. This applies to every other aspect of life- eating at the table, not poking and prodding strangers, not jumping up and down on other children when it’s their turn on the trampoline- and reading is no exception. So if you have a specific reading goal in mind, which is another good idea, then positive reinforcement is a way of reaching that goal.

The most basic form of positive reinforcement is praise and encouragement: ‘Keep going! Good lad!’ But if you set large scale goals, you can offer large scale rewards like trips out and bigger gifts. You might wonder why you should bother, but the point is to build up that positive association in your son’s mind between reading and reward, and reading and genuine enjoyment. It won’t take long before he surprises you with just how much he loves reading!

About the Author – James Goldsmith – The Eleven Plus Tutors in Essex



James graduated from The University of Sussex in 1996 and completed his P.G.C.E teaching qualification in 1997. Since then, James has worked as both a teacher, examiner and in management across a broad spectrum of the State and Independent Education sectors. He is committed to constantly upgrading his teaching skills and raising standards. You can connect with him by visiting on











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How to get boys reading
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How to get boys reading
There are a whole range of reasons why boys find it a little harder to read, and for them to actually enjoy it. But it’s absolutely possible to encourage your son to read, and to read for pleasure! The points outlined below are five key ways that you can get a boy on the right track to reading.
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