Books & Boys!

Image by CMLE
Image by CMLE

This past year, my nine year old son has been struggling with reading.  Even more disconcerting, is his negative attitude towards books in general. In one year, he has gone from a boy who would go to his bookshelf and hand me three or four books to read before bed-to a somewhat disgruntled and dispassionate reader.  In my mission to find answers and possible solutions, I discovered that this was a somewhat common occurrence with boys round my son’s age.  As a result, Patricia Post, CMLE Director, encouraged me to write this post.

In an article by K12 Reader, Boys and Reading: Strategies for Success  identifies why some boys struggle with reading including differences in development and the perception of the act of reading.  The author suggests greater one-on-one time, direct application of reading materials and taking time to identify books that may be of interest.

Professor Marcia Thompson, Center for Information Media at St. Cloud State University, stated that ” 4th grade boys are a tough niche. This is where so many boys leave the pleasure reading world.” She recommended the Guys Read website hosted by author Jon Scieszka. This site provides a list of books by category that have been boy tested and approved.  Under the Guys & Reading tab, Jon talks about the potential barriers to reading and the mission of his site. This site also encourages you to suggest titles you deem to be successful with boys.

If I was writing about another subject, I think my approach to finding solutions might be slightly different. Perhaps, I would consider a more tough love approach. However, based on the research, given how crucial reading is to the overall development of a boy, I have decided to take another tactic.

My parental approach and tips for a struggling reader:

  1. No guilt trips: I try not to add to the pressure he already feels to perform at school. Instead I search for work-a-rounds through subtle influences that might reignite his interests (keep reading for ideas.)
  2. Model behavior: I set aside time to read where he can see me. And, periodically share something I learned with him.
  3. Resources: Slowly introduce a variety of tools (print and electronic) to see if he latches on to anything in particular.
  4. Never underestimate the power of laughter: I take one night a week to read a short story to him before bed and alter my voice with each new character.
  5. Allow imperfections: I try not to get caught up in test scores-they are merely a gauge of where he is today, but tomorrow is another day.
  6. Its not about me: I want him find a passion for reading in his own way.
  7. Stay relevant: Think about things he can associate with cartoons, t.v. programs, video games and other activities that may have an age appropriate book.
  8. In his shoes: Think about what he might be interested in. For example on vacation this summer we spent time exploring a cave. After which I borrowed books from the library about spelunking. My son likes to re-purpose items found and bought. He was given the American Picker Kid’s book for his birthday. We also signed up for the online Kid Picker’s club.
  9. Less can be more:  I welcome short stories, comics, and articles from any appropriate source even if the designated reading level is for a younger audience.
  10. The power of words: I quickly respond and redirect negative, disparaging words he associates with reading and/or books.
  11. Progress: Although I strive for an immediate solution, it is not always possible. However, he can continue to make (value added) reasonable further progress.
  12. The big picture: I am in it for the long haul-beyond his formative years. My ultimate goal is that he becomes a literate, life long learner.

If you would like to share additional tips, resources or websites that you have found to be useful, feel free to contact me by email at (  or you can leave a comment at the bottom of this post. Based on the feedback, I would be happy to compile a list to share with our readers in a future post.

7 thoughts on “Books & Boys!”

  1. Well, done Michelle! I think your perspective is clear and concise. Parents with boys should appreciate this column.
    Debbie Binsfeld

  2. As a grandmother of a 2nd grade boy, I am also very interested in boys and reading. And let’s face it, as librarians, we want ALL kids to love reading and learning. Readers Advisory is a big part of being a librarian; helping people find books they will love! And the biggest part of Readers Advisory is asking the patron what books they have read that they liked. Then, the second question is, what was it that you liked about that book? People read for different reasons…some for plot, others for character development, or others love to read about different geographical places. These are all clues for suggesting additional titles. Consider those two answers carefully and use some online tools like the Guys Read site, Good Reads, or Library Thing. Having said that, when you do a search for the book he loved in an online library catalog like GRRL, at the bottom of the page, there will be Library Thing data included (titles of similar books). These suggested titles can help you grow the list of possibilities that will excite him and keep him wanting to read more! Don’t give up…..I am hoping others will offer strategies, tools or websites too!

    1. Good point Chris….and ALL adults should take comfort in the fact that librarians are part of their team in encouraging a reluctant reader, that we truly want all young people to love reading!

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