Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Boys and Reading

If you’ve got a boy, then chances are that you are worried about his reading attainment.  Maybe it’s just a gut feeling, if you homeschool, or it’s there in black and white every time you receive a school report or have a parents’ evening.

You aren’t imagining things – boys often read less well than girls.

The statistics are sobering: the average boy reads 1-1/2 years behind the average girl; he reads less than 30 minutes a day; he’s likely to be 7-percentage points behind the average girl in reading assessment at the end of primary-school age.

Then there are the scare stories – men with poor literacy struggle with lasting relationships later in life; 43% live alone; 22% still live with their parents; only 50% are satisfied with their lives, while those with good literacy rank at 78%.

Something must be done, right? (You don't want your son living at home with you when he's grown, do you?)

Here are some quick tips for improving your son’s reading ability.

First, don’t panic.  Boys often read later than girls because physiologically their brains don’t finish developing till the age of 14 or so, whereas girls finish at about 11.  In other words, you probably still have time to nurture this important life-skill.

Second, if you want your son to read, then you need to model the habit yourself.

Third, it’s important that dads and other male influences are seen to be reading: your son doesn’t want to engage in an activity that’s “only for girls”.  Men often claim work pressures or lack of confidence as reasons for not reading to their children, but their role in this is absolutely essential.  Print out this article and show it to them -- their involvement matters!

Finally, you have to find the right material, so he’ll want to read.  This will vary from child to child, but there are two main categories.  No, I don’t mean fiction vs. non-fiction, although these are useful divisions. 

I mean, read-alouds or read-to-selfs.  Books for reading aloud can be trickier, harder, perhaps in editions with smaller print and fewer illustrations.  Those for reading alone might need to appear simpler so those young eyes can latch onto the words without straining.

With those two categories in mind, it’s important, then, that you make the time to read to your son.  The physical enjoyment of it is as crucial to the experience as is the intellectual stimulation.

I’ve included several websites in my Suggested Links section for choosing good boys’ books.  I also suggest the fantastic resource by Jim Trelease called the Read Aloud Handbook which covers the why’s and wherefore’s of reading to your children, and the reasons why you should do so till they’re well into their teens.

Finally, I want to list two popular authors with my own son: Frank Cottrell Boyce, and Steve Cole, whose Astrosaurs series is very popular here in the UK for its combination of dinosaurs and astronauts.
What are your favourites at home?

(Be sure to click on the comments link to tile-down the great things people are saying!)


  1. I never knew about those statistics. You have good information in this post. I like your advice, and I believe that we should begin reading to our children as soon as they are home from the hospital.

  2. We are still looking for THE books. My oldest devoured Horrible Harry, but they are bit below his level now. I am going to pick up the Chronicles of Prydain and see if he takes to those since he likes the Harry Potter Series (read aloud). I try not to worry and compare. I am also upping the amount of required silent reading time per day. They choose which books but the reading must occur.

  3. If he's beyond Horrible Harry, then have a look at Cottrell Boyce. I think "Cosmic" is one of the best books ever, boys or girls. I also suggest Mr. Chickee's Funny Money and sequel by Christopher Paul Curtis.


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