Have you ever experienced things turning out so differently from what you'd imagined? Well, I have... multiple times too! it is always a humble reminder that we don’t have all the answers. One such experience came with my younger son. If anyone had told me when he was about 7 years old that he would end up reading Law at university, I would not have believed it. He certainly did not start off as an avid reader. In fact it was difficult for him to sit still for any length of time, let alone enjoy reading. However by the time he was in Year 13, he had fallen in love with reading and went on to choose a course that requires more reading than most. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when things changed, in fact looking back, there wasn't one particular moment. It was a gradual process that happened over time. One sure thing I remember though was that by the time he finished primary school, things had significantly turned around.
If you are the parent of a young boy, you can probably relate to the first part of my story. A survey of children aged 6-17, conducted by Scholastic revealed that whereas 72% of the girls surveyed said they enjoy reading books over summer, only 52% of the boys said the same. The Kids & Family Reading Report went on to show that girls are more likely than boys to read books for fun.
Most boys enjoy reading a different type of text
Despite these metrics, there is evidence all around us that not all boys dislike reading. If they did we wouldn’t have so many barristers in practice who are male (67%); Members of Parliament who are male (68%); and professors who are male (74%). These are all professions where you cannot thrive if you are not comfortable with reading voluminous amounts of material.
One reason why we seem to have issues with our sons reading is that they generally prefer factual, non-fiction books. Their preferred text will typically cover politics, football, autobiographies, manuals and the like. They also tend to lean towards humour. The Scholastic survey showed more boys than girls (65% vs 63%) saying they enjoy reading books that make them laugh whilst less than one in ten boys would choose a book where the characters are in love.
Predictors of reading frequency
According to the survey, the most powerful predictors of reading frequency for children aged 6–17 include the dynamics in the quadrant below.
You will notice that two of the elements in the quadrant relate to the parent. Essentially, if you show an interest in your son's reading and you are a reader yourself, you will make a positive impact.
Here are two other factors that impact your child's reading frequency:
For 6-11 year olds:
It is how often they were read to before reception.
And for 12-17 year olds:
It is spending less time on TV and social media.
So what can you do, to help your son start to enjoy reading?
1. Connect your son’s interests and reading
For some reason (I blame it on their dad) both my sons loved history from very early on. And for my younger son in particular, humour is a vital and essential part of life. This combination of interests made the Horrible Histories Collection of books very appealing to my sons. I vividly remember both of them chuckling away as they read the gory and unusual aspects of history in these highly humorous history books. The Horrible Histories Books ticked multiple boxes in one go! My sons enjoyed reading more, they learnt history AND they had fun in the process, laughing their heads off through it all.
2. Introduce competition
Do you often find yourself nudging or should I say, nagging your son to spend some of his spare time reading for pleasure instead of playing video games? You are not alone, the battle is intense and constant in most homes. But why is the lure of video games so strong? Although there are a number of reasons, one sure factor is that video games are very competitive and therefore feed the need that most boys have to be competitive.
You can make reading become more attractive to your son by making it competitive too. I can’t promise that it will match the lure of video games but with some dedication and creativity on your part, it will go a long way towards increasing your son’s reading frequency.
To introduce competition, you can start a reading challenge. This is a great technique to use because it is relatively straightforward and inexpensive.
- Do this with a group of your son’s mates so they compete against each other.
- Each participant earns points by how many books or how many hours they’ve read and the winner gets a reward at the end.
- Getting the books should not cost you much as you can use your local library.
- Decide upfront what will be measured and what the reward will be.
- Have a clear system of recording the individual achievements
- Make sure the reward is something that they will look forward to. This could be a visit to the cinema, a trip to a theme park etc.
For more ideas and resources to help you run a reading challenge visit the reading rewards website.
3. Read aloud to your son at home
Children really love it when their parents read books aloud to them. Research backs this up, in fact the Kids & Family Reading Report revealed that 37% of the 6-8 year olds whose parents no longer read books aloud to them at home did not want their parents to stop. Read aloud to your son daily if you want your son to enjoy reading. Not only will you be encouraging a love for reading, you will also be:
- Creating a strong bond by spending quality time together
- Having fun whilst exposing him to literacy and grammar
Understandably, most parents stop doing this when their children become independent readers. With some creativity, this does not have to be the case. One thing we kept going when our sons had become independent readers was our family bedtime routine. Our routine was to read the Bible out loud to each other every night. This meant our sons had the best of both worlds; they enjoyed reading alone independently in their own time AND also enjoyed the special bonding time with us every night.
4. Choice will improve reading enjoyment
Put yourself in your son's shoes. How would you feel if you had no choice about the flip flops you could take with you on holiday? We all need to have some freedom of choice and your son is no different.
Interestingly 86% of the kids surveyed by Scholastic said "My favourite books are the ones that I have picked out myself."
Your son is therefore more likely to enjoy reading a book that he chooses than one that is he thinks has been forced on him.
So where possible let your son select the book that he will read for pleasure within age-appropriate boundaries.
5. Let your son see you enjoy reading
You are the first role model in your son’s life. Therefore your son will learn more from what he sees you do than what you tell him to do. You can help your son start enjoying reading by becoming a reader if you aren’t one already. Have a mini library at home with a variety of books but don’t just own books, read them AND let your son see you doing so. Modelling the right behaviours in this way is powerful and it is even more impactful if you are the father. Where possible read paperbacks or hardbacks as this reinforces the image you are trying to create in your son’s mind. If you prefer eBooks then it’s better to use a device such as a Kindle rather than your phone. Reading from your phone could give your son the erroneous impression that you are telling him to spend less time on his numerous screens whilst you are indulging in excessive screen time.
6. Book series can draw your son in
Series are a great way to help your son enjoy reading more. If your son loves the first of the books in a series, then he will most likely want to read the rest of them. Book series can yield multiple benefits for your son:
- He will read more because he wants to read all the books
- His reading enjoyment will increase because of the familiarity with the characters
- He will have a sense of accomplishment when he completes all the books in the series
- The feel-good factor derived from completing one book series could lead to him choosing another set
- And before you know it he goes from one series to the next because he now genuinely enjoys reading
Here are 9 book series titles that most boys will enjoy reading. They range from funny stories to fantasy and your son is likely to find at least one of them enjoyable.