On Raising Boys Who Read

GeekMom
boy-reading
Photo: Flickr user KellyB.

My boys are voracious readers. Sometimes I’ve even been tempted to make them put the books down and do something else. Anything else. A friend of mine tells me that this is a good problem to have. Her son, the same age as my youngest, won’t pick up a book to save his life.

“How do you do it?” she asks.

She’s not the only one wondering. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal ponders How to Raise Boys Who Read. From the article:

According to a recent report from the Center on Education Policy, for example, substantially more boys than girls score below the proficiency level on the annual National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test. This disparity goes back to 1992, and in some states the percentage of boys proficient in reading is now more than ten points below that of girls. The male-female reading gap is found in every socio-economic and ethnic category, including the children of white, college-educated parents.

How did we get to this point with our boys? Some blame technology and video games. Others blame the reading material itself:

A considerable number of teachers and librarians believe that boys are simply bored by the “stuffy” literature they encounter in school. According to a revealing Associated Press story in July these experts insist that we must “meet them where they are”–that is, pander to boys’ untutored tastes.

While I don’t disagree with the idea of letting kids read what interests them, I didn’t have to pander to my kids with books like Zombie Butts from Uranus. My youngest did pick up Captain Underpants on the recommendation of a friend, but it didn’t cause him to seek out more books in the bathroom humor genre. I think he had enough sense to realize that while there may have been a few chuckles in the book, it really wasn’t as enjoyable as some of the other stories he’d read.

As a homeschooling family we’ve had the freedom to let reading occur at a more natural pace. I never sat down and said, “Today, we learn to read.” Instead, I read to the boys. A lot. I pointed out signs, telling them what they said. I made sure they had access to plenty of interesting reading material. Not just books, but maps, games, Pokemon cards, and LEGO catalogs. And they learned to read. Note that I didn’t say, “I taught them to read.” I didn’t. I gave them the opportunities and they essentially taught themselves. I answered plenty of  “How do you spell ___?” questions and told them what the unrecognizable words were when they asked. But that’s been the extent of my reading lessons.

My eldest was reading picture books at the age of four, and asking the librarian to help him find non-fiction books on topics of interest at five. My youngest was a late reader. At age eight, he didn’t read much beyond some familiar and basic words but he was desperate to know what all the Harry Potter fuss was about. I told him that when he could read, he could read Harry Potter. He’d finished the first book in the series two weeks later because all of a sudden, reading became interesting and important to him. Today? Both boys are reading at levels well beyond their respective grade level.

I think that because my boys have had the opportunity to read what interested them, at their own pace, they’ve learned that reading isn’t a chore that must be completed, but rather an activity to be enjoyed. My youngest – the late reader – carries a book with him everywhere he goes in case there’s a down moment when he can squeeze in a little reading for pleasure.

That Wall Street Journal article closes with this interesting fact:

There is no literacy gap between home-schooled boys and girls.

This is not to say that every homeschooling family uses the same method. Certainly that’s not the case. But somewhere between home and school, something is going on. Is it the push in schools for high scores on standardized testing? Is it the long hours of seat time leaving boys with the desire to do nothing but move when the bell rings?

My friend whose son is a reluctant reader feels very strongly that he was pushed to read when he wasn’t ready. His first two years of school was full of forced memorization. In her mind, those lessons did nothing but teach him to hate reading. Forcing our boys to sit and read when their brains are simply not there yet is counterproductive.

I’m not suggesting that everyone run out and homeschool. Absolutely not. And I’m not suggesting that kids with learning disabilities be left to their own devices. But why not take a lesson from what seems to be working and ask schools to ease up a bit? Give these boys the resources, let them read at their own pace, and I’d bet that in no time this problem will be a minor one. Let these poor kids learn to enjoy reading.

So, GeekMoms. Is your son a reader? What did you do to encourage a love of reading? Was there one teacher who really inspired him? This is my story; tell us yours!

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96 thoughts on “On Raising Boys Who Read

  1. For us it was the discovery of the PBS show Word World while in the US this summer that kick started us. My eldest is only four, so I wasn’t too worried, but no matter how much we read to him, or games on starfall we played, he didn’t care. It took some laid back TV time to flip his switch, much to my chagrin. Now he’s sounding out words on cereal boxes, books, cards, spelling with foam letters, and even trying to write his own name in both of his languages. We’re still just beginning, but that’s what kick started us.

  2. For us it was the discovery of the PBS show Word World while in the US this summer that kick started us. My eldest is only four, so I wasn’t too worried, but no matter how much we read to him, or games on starfall we played, he didn’t care. It took some laid back TV time to flip his switch, much to my chagrin. Now he’s sounding out words on cereal boxes, books, cards, spelling with foam letters, and even trying to write his own name in both of his languages. We’re still just beginning, but that’s what kick started us.

  3. Step #1: Read to them. Start when they’re babies. They need to be brought up to see that reading isn’t something you do when assigned a book at school or work, but something you do when you’re relaxing, getting ready for bed, bored, or have nothing else you want to do.

    Step #2: see Step #1 and keep at it. As the article says, doesn’t have to be books, it can be signs, receipts, magazines, labels, anything. Point out “weird words”, like “receipt”: “Isn’t it funny how that ‘p’ isn’t pronounced?” Point out the words as you read them. Sound them out. Read stories with emotion, act out the parts in the stories, or at least use funny voices. It’s not about “making” it fun for them, it already is fun!

    Step #3: I know this sounds crazy, but books on tape to help them follow along is *not* the same as reading. When my son was 5, I was at the library with him, and a mother wanted to know how I’d gotten my son to love reading so much. She said that she gave her 8 year old a library full of books on tape and the books to go along with them, but he still wasn’t interested. Read. Not listen to a tape/CD/mp3. Read. Get the book out, sit down on the floor, the couch, next to their bed, wherever they can see the words and the pictures, and read.

    Step #4: Read books yourself. Since my son was born he’s been surrounded by stacks of books I and my wife were reading at the time. We’ve ramped up our “library” to take up one whole room, and have to remind ourselves that we don’t really have room for more when we’re at the used bookstore. That doesn’t stop us of course, and we end up having more double-stacked shelves. But he sees that it’s not something we’re pushing on him alone, but something we enjoy ourselves.

    Step #5: I cannot stress this enough. Read to them. Every night when getting put to bed, one of us would read him a story. No excuses on our part. Work to do? Read to him then do the work. Not going to be home? My wife would read to him or let him stay up late (depending on how late) so I could “say goodnight”, which meant “read a story”.

    Step #6: Make trips to the library and bookstores (preferably used, where $1 books are the rule) a regular part of your routine. Again, if they see you reading a lot, and not just for work or school, they will take notice.

    The results: (And yes, I love bragging about my son’s reading ability because a love of reading is something my parents, who were pretty poor, worked hard to pass on to me). My 8-year-old can read books that I wasn’t reading till I was in middle school. He’s currently reading Isaac Asimov’s “I, Robot”, and loves it. He sneaks books into bed with him, and will fall asleep reading the Narnia tales, Calivin and Hobbes, Heinlen’s “Have Spacesuit, Will Travel”, anything he can get his hands on. When cleaning out his locker at school last year he had almost 20 books stashed away in there that he would read when he had time. He breezes through the reading assignments at school, and loves every minute of it. His teachers so far have all been amazed at his willingness to read in front of the class, and how fun he makes it for the rest of the kids. Give him a book and he’s good. Yes, he still plays video games, goes outside to play, watches TV, and of course is addicted to Legos. But reading has become his fallback when he’s relaxing on the couch with me, or taking a trip in the car, or just when it’s a pleasant day outside and he wants to relax, I’ve found him up in a tree in our backyard reading a book.

    Sorry for the long post, but so many parents I’ve met seem to have the same problem in getting their kids to read, and I try to pass on this same advice whenever I can.

    1. My son is 10 and we’ve been reading to him since he was a baby. Heck, he had colic and one of the ways we got him to sleep was to sing ABCs to him. He is a voracious reader though sometimes I wish he would read something a bit more challenging. He is far ahead of his classmates and he has consistently scored in the high 90’s on his tests.

      My daughter is just about to turn 5 and, just like her brother, we have been reading and singing ABCs since she was a baby. She goes to a daycare where the lady is amazed that she is reading. She consistently gets books that are reading level of a first grader.

      My wife and I have very eclectic reading habits. Our bookshelves are lined with books from science fiction to science fact, historical novels to history books, self-help books, philosophy, fantasy, etc. We don’t push what books they read but they get all different kinds of books at the library.

      We read to the youngest just about every night, if not every day. We stress that we are glad that they read but they also get up and do active things.

      We show our kids that we enjoy reading and that it’s good that they also enjoy it. We let them choose their own books at the library and sometimes the younger one gets some books that a little bit old for her. Even so, we help her choose books that are not too old for her but are a challenge for her to read.

      We have started to push the older boy toward books that I read as a boy. Sometimes we find it easier to use some reverse psychology on him. We tell him that he can’t read books off a certain shelf and then he sneaks them. Other times if he is looking for a book and asks, we point him to something like the Narnia books or the Myth series. We have talked about the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings but we’re waiting a bit.

      Both of us were raised reading. We have tried to instill that in our children and it seems to have worked.

  4. Step #1: Read to them. Start when they’re babies. They need to be brought up to see that reading isn’t something you do when assigned a book at school or work, but something you do when you’re relaxing, getting ready for bed, bored, or have nothing else you want to do.

    Step #2: see Step #1 and keep at it. As the article says, doesn’t have to be books, it can be signs, receipts, magazines, labels, anything. Point out “weird words”, like “receipt”: “Isn’t it funny how that ‘p’ isn’t pronounced?” Point out the words as you read them. Sound them out. Read stories with emotion, act out the parts in the stories, or at least use funny voices. It’s not about “making” it fun for them, it already is fun!

    Step #3: I know this sounds crazy, but books on tape to help them follow along is *not* the same as reading. When my son was 5, I was at the library with him, and a mother wanted to know how I’d gotten my son to love reading so much. She said that she gave her 8 year old a library full of books on tape and the books to go along with them, but he still wasn’t interested. Read. Not listen to a tape/CD/mp3. Read. Get the book out, sit down on the floor, the couch, next to their bed, wherever they can see the words and the pictures, and read.

    Step #4: Read books yourself. Since my son was born he’s been surrounded by stacks of books I and my wife were reading at the time. We’ve ramped up our “library” to take up one whole room, and have to remind ourselves that we don’t really have room for more when we’re at the used bookstore. That doesn’t stop us of course, and we end up having more double-stacked shelves. But he sees that it’s not something we’re pushing on him alone, but something we enjoy ourselves.

    Step #5: I cannot stress this enough. Read to them. Every night when getting put to bed, one of us would read him a story. No excuses on our part. Work to do? Read to him then do the work. Not going to be home? My wife would read to him or let him stay up late (depending on how late) so I could “say goodnight”, which meant “read a story”.

    Step #6: Make trips to the library and bookstores (preferably used, where $1 books are the rule) a regular part of your routine. Again, if they see you reading a lot, and not just for work or school, they will take notice.

    The results: (And yes, I love bragging about my son’s reading ability because a love of reading is something my parents, who were pretty poor, worked hard to pass on to me). My 8-year-old can read books that I wasn’t reading till I was in middle school. He’s currently reading Isaac Asimov’s “I, Robot”, and loves it. He sneaks books into bed with him, and will fall asleep reading the Narnia tales, Calivin and Hobbes, Heinlen’s “Have Spacesuit, Will Travel”, anything he can get his hands on. When cleaning out his locker at school last year he had almost 20 books stashed away in there that he would read when he had time. He breezes through the reading assignments at school, and loves every minute of it. His teachers so far have all been amazed at his willingness to read in front of the class, and how fun he makes it for the rest of the kids. Give him a book and he’s good. Yes, he still plays video games, goes outside to play, watches TV, and of course is addicted to Legos. But reading has become his fallback when he’s relaxing on the couch with me, or taking a trip in the car, or just when it’s a pleasant day outside and he wants to relax, I’ve found him up in a tree in our backyard reading a book.

    Sorry for the long post, but so many parents I’ve met seem to have the same problem in getting their kids to read, and I try to pass on this same advice whenever I can.

    1. My son is 10 and we’ve been reading to him since he was a baby. Heck, he had colic and one of the ways we got him to sleep was to sing ABCs to him. He is a voracious reader though sometimes I wish he would read something a bit more challenging. He is far ahead of his classmates and he has consistently scored in the high 90’s on his tests.

      My daughter is just about to turn 5 and, just like her brother, we have been reading and singing ABCs since she was a baby. She goes to a daycare where the lady is amazed that she is reading. She consistently gets books that are reading level of a first grader.

      My wife and I have very eclectic reading habits. Our bookshelves are lined with books from science fiction to science fact, historical novels to history books, self-help books, philosophy, fantasy, etc. We don’t push what books they read but they get all different kinds of books at the library.

      We read to the youngest just about every night, if not every day. We stress that we are glad that they read but they also get up and do active things.

      We show our kids that we enjoy reading and that it’s good that they also enjoy it. We let them choose their own books at the library and sometimes the younger one gets some books that a little bit old for her. Even so, we help her choose books that are not too old for her but are a challenge for her to read.

      We have started to push the older boy toward books that I read as a boy. Sometimes we find it easier to use some reverse psychology on him. We tell him that he can’t read books off a certain shelf and then he sneaks them. Other times if he is looking for a book and asks, we point him to something like the Narnia books or the Myth series. We have talked about the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings but we’re waiting a bit.

      Both of us were raised reading. We have tried to instill that in our children and it seems to have worked.

  5. Ok, I’m a geekdad, not a geekmom, but I have two sons (ages 10 and 13 now) who read voraciously, and nowadays reasonably widely. As reading has become easier for them they’ve tended to be more prepared to try something different, harder, or more classical – sometimes they give up, sometimes they stick with it, but at least they try. When they were younger we read to them, a lot, and at least every night before bed – it was just part of the bath-book-bedtime routine. As they got older, they did become a bit more independent, but there were occasions when I’d curl up on the sofa to read, and one or both kids would appear a short while later with a book that they wanted to read. Copying Dad seems to be a phase that boys go through, and if Dad reads, it helps get the boys to read. We found that in the earlier days of reading fiction was “just boring”, so non-fiction ruled. But as their reading skills developed, they started to pick up some fiction – often quiet trashy stuff, but at least they were reading. As they’ve both grown up the breadth of what they read has grown. If you have boys who don’t read (I only have boys, I’m not qualified to comment on what girls might like…) try them with stories that go bang (anything with explosions, adventure seemed to work for us) just to get them reading, and then go on from there. If you’re starting early, start by reading to them, a lot. Make it part of the daily routine, and it might just stick. 🙂

    1. GeekDads welcome, too, Jon! You know what book is perfect for boys – even reluctant readers? “Holes” by Louis Sachar. It’s got the kind of action boys like, plus the chapters are so incredibly short (sometimes just a paragraph!) that reluctant readers really feel like they’re moving along at a good clip.

  6. Ok, I’m a geekdad, not a geekmom, but I have two sons (ages 10 and 13 now) who read voraciously, and nowadays reasonably widely. As reading has become easier for them they’ve tended to be more prepared to try something different, harder, or more classical – sometimes they give up, sometimes they stick with it, but at least they try. When they were younger we read to them, a lot, and at least every night before bed – it was just part of the bath-book-bedtime routine. As they got older, they did become a bit more independent, but there were occasions when I’d curl up on the sofa to read, and one or both kids would appear a short while later with a book that they wanted to read. Copying Dad seems to be a phase that boys go through, and if Dad reads, it helps get the boys to read. We found that in the earlier days of reading fiction was “just boring”, so non-fiction ruled. But as their reading skills developed, they started to pick up some fiction – often quiet trashy stuff, but at least they were reading. As they’ve both grown up the breadth of what they read has grown. If you have boys who don’t read (I only have boys, I’m not qualified to comment on what girls might like…) try them with stories that go bang (anything with explosions, adventure seemed to work for us) just to get them reading, and then go on from there. If you’re starting early, start by reading to them, a lot. Make it part of the daily routine, and it might just stick. 🙂

    1. GeekDads welcome, too, Jon! You know what book is perfect for boys – even reluctant readers? “Holes” by Louis Sachar. It’s got the kind of action boys like, plus the chapters are so incredibly short (sometimes just a paragraph!) that reluctant readers really feel like they’re moving along at a good clip.

  7. Don’t blame the reading material. There are plenty of great books for children, both boys and girls. If you want specific ideas, check these titles out for lists of books:
    Great Books for Boys by Kathleen Odean
    Great Books for Girls by Kathleen Odean
    The New York Times Parent’s Guide to the Best Books for Children by Eden Ross Lipsen
    Books to Build On by John Holden and E.D. Hirsch
    The literature is there, some old and some new. Parents simply need to make reading a priority by reading to their children when they are young and making time for the kids to read during their elementary school years. This one is on the parents, not the kids.
    Regardless of what you think of President Obama’s politics or his performance in office, he is right on the money when he says:
    “…as parents, we have to find the time and the energy to step in and help our children love reading. We can read to them, talk to them about what they’re reading, and make time for this by turning off the television set ourselves.”
    “And I’ve said this all across the country when I talk to parents about education, government has to fulfill its obligations to fund education, but parents have to do their job too. We’ve got to turn off the TV set, we’ve got to put away the video game, and we have to tell our children that education is not a passive activity, you have to be actively engaged in it. If we encourage that attitude and our community is enforcing it, I have no doubt we can compete with anybody in the world.”
    All parents, regardless of politics, should take this message to heart, more importantly, act on it. Your children will grow to love it now and thank you for it later.

    1. Joe, I agree. It IS up to parents to help their kids learn to love reading, no matter what their education plan is. It’s not something we can just pass off to teachers to do. Thanks for sharing that quote; I’d missed that.

  8. Don’t blame the reading material. There are plenty of great books for children, both boys and girls. If you want specific ideas, check these titles out for lists of books:
    Great Books for Boys by Kathleen Odean
    Great Books for Girls by Kathleen Odean
    The New York Times Parent’s Guide to the Best Books for Children by Eden Ross Lipsen
    Books to Build On by John Holden and E.D. Hirsch
    The literature is there, some old and some new. Parents simply need to make reading a priority by reading to their children when they are young and making time for the kids to read during their elementary school years. This one is on the parents, not the kids.
    Regardless of what you think of President Obama’s politics or his performance in office, he is right on the money when he says:
    “…as parents, we have to find the time and the energy to step in and help our children love reading. We can read to them, talk to them about what they’re reading, and make time for this by turning off the television set ourselves.”
    “And I’ve said this all across the country when I talk to parents about education, government has to fulfill its obligations to fund education, but parents have to do their job too. We’ve got to turn off the TV set, we’ve got to put away the video game, and we have to tell our children that education is not a passive activity, you have to be actively engaged in it. If we encourage that attitude and our community is enforcing it, I have no doubt we can compete with anybody in the world.”
    All parents, regardless of politics, should take this message to heart, more importantly, act on it. Your children will grow to love it now and thank you for it later.

    1. Joe, I agree. It IS up to parents to help their kids learn to love reading, no matter what their education plan is. It’s not something we can just pass off to teachers to do. Thanks for sharing that quote; I’d missed that.

  9. My son was not just reluctant, he was defiant about not reading when he was younger. Interestingly, he was never pushed to read- we homeschool in a light manner. Yet, he got enough people asking him if he was reading yet that he got very defensive and said he never wanted to.

    I told him he had to learn to read enough to read directions because it’s a necessity to live in our country. But I never told him he had to read books and or love it or that he had a problem. His dad read to him every night and they enjoyed that time very much. Sometimes, his dad would say he had to read the first sentence in the chapter before he’d go on. But that was extent of any pushing or extra help.

    By eight he was enjoying manga books. While reading “Whistle” he remarked, “Sometimes, I get so confused about what’s going on.” I asked if he was reading the words and he said no. I pointed out that it might help with the plot understanding…

    And that was it. He started reading because he wanted to know what was going on. The next week he picked up a 300 page book that had a cool cover and read it in a couple of weeks. Now, I try to kick him out of the house to get him to tear his eyes away from a book.

  10. My son was not just reluctant, he was defiant about not reading when he was younger. Interestingly, he was never pushed to read- we homeschool in a light manner. Yet, he got enough people asking him if he was reading yet that he got very defensive and said he never wanted to.

    I told him he had to learn to read enough to read directions because it’s a necessity to live in our country. But I never told him he had to read books and or love it or that he had a problem. His dad read to him every night and they enjoyed that time very much. Sometimes, his dad would say he had to read the first sentence in the chapter before he’d go on. But that was extent of any pushing or extra help.

    By eight he was enjoying manga books. While reading “Whistle” he remarked, “Sometimes, I get so confused about what’s going on.” I asked if he was reading the words and he said no. I pointed out that it might help with the plot understanding…

    And that was it. He started reading because he wanted to know what was going on. The next week he picked up a 300 page book that had a cool cover and read it in a couple of weeks. Now, I try to kick him out of the house to get him to tear his eyes away from a book.

  11. I did the same as you – I always read to my boys; I read signs with them; I kept magnetic letters on the fridge and made word games out of them. I think, like potty training, if we let them develop at their own pace, they will learn to embrace reading rather than seeing it as a “chore.” Sounds like you did a fabulous job getting your boys to love books!

  12. I did the same as you – I always read to my boys; I read signs with them; I kept magnetic letters on the fridge and made word games out of them. I think, like potty training, if we let them develop at their own pace, they will learn to embrace reading rather than seeing it as a “chore.” Sounds like you did a fabulous job getting your boys to love books!

  13. I had one boy and two girls. They were raised in France and were half-French, but our library had books in English, too. I read to them from the time they were toddlers. There was a real difference in the boy and the girls. My son was never interested in reading. Then he discovered Tin-Tin and his father’s comic strip books. His reading ability took off. But he was never into literature. His sisters were. Don’t know where the difference comes from, but it does exist.

  14. I had one boy and two girls. They were raised in France and were half-French, but our library had books in English, too. I read to them from the time they were toddlers. There was a real difference in the boy and the girls. My son was never interested in reading. Then he discovered Tin-Tin and his father’s comic strip books. His reading ability took off. But he was never into literature. His sisters were. Don’t know where the difference comes from, but it does exist.

  15. Our boys (ages 10 & 7) are voracious readers as well, and both were reading fluently at age 4. We didn’t teach them. As you said, they learned in a rich environment. We were reading to my oldest when he was a 1-lb. baby in the NICU, and we never stopped. When he was four, we would often walk into the living room and find him reading to his one-year-old brother on the couch. We read signs together, we had impromptu vocabulary sessions when faced with new words (“Automatic doors”), and the youngest was asking me how to spell words by age 3.

    Our boys take books in the car; they don’t own DS’s or other portable gaming systems, and they won’t until (and if) they decide to spend their own money on them when they’re much older. The response I often get to that is, “HOW do they read in the car without getting sick??? I just can’t do that.” I maintain that if your kid can look at a DS screen in a moving vehicle, he can read in one. We kept a crate of board books in the back seat of the car from the time the oldest was able to pick them up and play with them.

    I believe, if left to their own devices, given a reading-rich environment and example, and barring disruptive disabilities, kids will learn. Given the right material, they’ll enjoy it, too.

    1. Aimee, my kids didn’t have gaming systems until they were able to purchase their own (they were maybe 10 & 13?). They still don’t have a DS or portable system. I like to consider books their “hand-held devices.” 😉

  16. Our boys (ages 10 & 7) are voracious readers as well, and both were reading fluently at age 4. We didn’t teach them. As you said, they learned in a rich environment. We were reading to my oldest when he was a 1-lb. baby in the NICU, and we never stopped. When he was four, we would often walk into the living room and find him reading to his one-year-old brother on the couch. We read signs together, we had impromptu vocabulary sessions when faced with new words (“Automatic doors”), and the youngest was asking me how to spell words by age 3.

    Our boys take books in the car; they don’t own DS’s or other portable gaming systems, and they won’t until (and if) they decide to spend their own money on them when they’re much older. The response I often get to that is, “HOW do they read in the car without getting sick??? I just can’t do that.” I maintain that if your kid can look at a DS screen in a moving vehicle, he can read in one. We kept a crate of board books in the back seat of the car from the time the oldest was able to pick them up and play with them.

    I believe, if left to their own devices, given a reading-rich environment and example, and barring disruptive disabilities, kids will learn. Given the right material, they’ll enjoy it, too.

    1. Aimee, my kids didn’t have gaming systems until they were able to purchase their own (they were maybe 10 & 13?). They still don’t have a DS or portable system. I like to consider books their “hand-held devices.” 😉

  17. My brother and I were and are voracious readers!!! My parents took us to library story hours and ordered liberally from the Scholastic book orders we brought home (they didn’t always indulge us when we asked for toys but they did indulge our appetite for books!). To this day, we often get books as gifts and we LOVE that!

    PS that Flickr photo is ADORABLE! The red hair reminds me of my own little brother when he was younger.

  18. My brother and I were and are voracious readers!!! My parents took us to library story hours and ordered liberally from the Scholastic book orders we brought home (they didn’t always indulge us when we asked for toys but they did indulge our appetite for books!). To this day, we often get books as gifts and we LOVE that!

    PS that Flickr photo is ADORABLE! The red hair reminds me of my own little brother when he was younger.

  19. Our kids and grandkids loved to read illustrated adventure stories like Tintin, Asterix, and Carl Bark’s stories about Donald Duck, Huey Dewey and Louie, and Uncle Scrooge.

  20. Our kids and grandkids loved to read illustrated adventure stories like Tintin, Asterix, and Carl Bark’s stories about Donald Duck, Huey Dewey and Louie, and Uncle Scrooge.

  21. Have books about things they want to read. My boy (6) has full access to iPad, iPod, PS3 and TV. When I need to find him I look for him on my chair by the bookshelves. He doesn’t like stories, unless they include Mater from Cars. He reads science books. Tsunamis, volcanoes, dinosaurs, oceanography ships, cloud types, that’s what gets him. He just likes that I know the answer when he asks me something and he loves that he can learn from other sources and then try to impress me.

    Find out what is it that your boy really likes and have age appropriate reading material on the matter.

  22. Have books about things they want to read. My boy (6) has full access to iPad, iPod, PS3 and TV. When I need to find him I look for him on my chair by the bookshelves. He doesn’t like stories, unless they include Mater from Cars. He reads science books. Tsunamis, volcanoes, dinosaurs, oceanography ships, cloud types, that’s what gets him. He just likes that I know the answer when he asks me something and he loves that he can learn from other sources and then try to impress me.

    Find out what is it that your boy really likes and have age appropriate reading material on the matter.

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  25. I am very interested in this topic because I am a high school English teacher who has three boys. With all the statistics about boys and reading, I’ve been concerned from the beginning. They are now 15, 11 and 10, and all three have above average reading ability!
    Boy1 was initially resistant to school (okay…he still is to a certain extent…over the years, he asked to be home schooled several times), but really wanted to play Pokemon on his Game Boy. His love for reading started with a hand-held gaming device that involved a great deal of reading! From there, he became a voracious reader, getting in trouble for reading his books in class instead of doing the school work; this has been an issue since grade two. He would read at recess, while walking home, after school on the computer, and before bed. We even had to take away his light because he’d read into the wee hours of the morning otherwise. He’s just finishing Wicked, and I don’t know if any of you have read it, but I’m an English teacher and I had to take out the dictionary several times while reading this book. That author has a fantastic vocabulary!
    Boy2 and Boy3 didn’t seem to be heading in the same direction, being less interested in reading novels but frequently reading information on the computer. Quite suddenly their habits changed for no apparent reason, and both boys are also reading novels. Boy3 read the entire Harry Potter series in 6 weeks; the Percy Jackson series in a month, and the Hunger Games series also in a month.
    Boy3 was determined to read a Star Wars novel even though it was a thick adult novel. I felt the task was too ambitious but thought he should figure that out for himself. He read the book! It took him an entire year, reading Bone books, etc., inbetween…but he did it.
    I don’t feel that we did much actively to make this happen, but my husband and I are both active readers who talk about what they are reading. We talk about our reading, current news/magazine articles, interesting information we find online, etc. I also try to not use simplistic language just because they are kids. I use the big words and let them ask me to explain if they don’t get it. They are all above average in their reading.

    Interesting point though…all scored at the province average in reading/writing in grade 3 despite the fact that I know their reading ability is excellent for their age.

    I teach a grade nine English class where the students dislike reading/writing and are below grade level in both. I initiated a reading unit where they choose their own books…completely…read for 1/2 the period, write and/or conference for the second half, and have a creative period once a week. Behaviour problems in the class reduced by at least 50%, no one is complaining, and the room is sometimes completely quiet. They like to read when they choose the reading materials!

  26. I am very interested in this topic because I am a high school English teacher who has three boys. With all the statistics about boys and reading, I’ve been concerned from the beginning. They are now 15, 11 and 10, and all three have above average reading ability!
    Boy1 was initially resistant to school (okay…he still is to a certain extent…over the years, he asked to be home schooled several times), but really wanted to play Pokemon on his Game Boy. His love for reading started with a hand-held gaming device that involved a great deal of reading! From there, he became a voracious reader, getting in trouble for reading his books in class instead of doing the school work; this has been an issue since grade two. He would read at recess, while walking home, after school on the computer, and before bed. We even had to take away his light because he’d read into the wee hours of the morning otherwise. He’s just finishing Wicked, and I don’t know if any of you have read it, but I’m an English teacher and I had to take out the dictionary several times while reading this book. That author has a fantastic vocabulary!
    Boy2 and Boy3 didn’t seem to be heading in the same direction, being less interested in reading novels but frequently reading information on the computer. Quite suddenly their habits changed for no apparent reason, and both boys are also reading novels. Boy3 read the entire Harry Potter series in 6 weeks; the Percy Jackson series in a month, and the Hunger Games series also in a month.
    Boy3 was determined to read a Star Wars novel even though it was a thick adult novel. I felt the task was too ambitious but thought he should figure that out for himself. He read the book! It took him an entire year, reading Bone books, etc., inbetween…but he did it.
    I don’t feel that we did much actively to make this happen, but my husband and I are both active readers who talk about what they are reading. We talk about our reading, current news/magazine articles, interesting information we find online, etc. I also try to not use simplistic language just because they are kids. I use the big words and let them ask me to explain if they don’t get it. They are all above average in their reading.

    Interesting point though…all scored at the province average in reading/writing in grade 3 despite the fact that I know their reading ability is excellent for their age.

    I teach a grade nine English class where the students dislike reading/writing and are below grade level in both. I initiated a reading unit where they choose their own books…completely…read for 1/2 the period, write and/or conference for the second half, and have a creative period once a week. Behaviour problems in the class reduced by at least 50%, no one is complaining, and the room is sometimes completely quiet. They like to read when they choose the reading materials!

  27. Don’t worry if the first thing your kids get interested in is comics. A friend my age got me interested in reading when I was four by reading to me from a comic.

    Picture books about things they show an interest in work wonders for born readers.

    I spent much of my growing-up summers reading what I could understand, and tackled quantum mechanics and Carl Jung when I was 20. My clever friend turned out to be the larval stage of a town librarian.

  28. Don’t worry if the first thing your kids get interested in is comics. A friend my age got me interested in reading when I was four by reading to me from a comic.

    Picture books about things they show an interest in work wonders for born readers.

    I spent much of my growing-up summers reading what I could understand, and tackled quantum mechanics and Carl Jung when I was 20. My clever friend turned out to be the larval stage of a town librarian.

  29. We’ve been reading to our preschooler ever since he was just a few months old. He doesn’t read on his own yet, but he loves being read to. We spend an average of an hour a day reading to him. He does know all the letters in both alphabets (we’re raising him bilingual), have memorized some simpler words and is attempting to read other short words. So I’m thinking we’re just going to continue reading to him A LOT. Seems to be working so far.

  30. We’ve been reading to our preschooler ever since he was just a few months old. He doesn’t read on his own yet, but he loves being read to. We spend an average of an hour a day reading to him. He does know all the letters in both alphabets (we’re raising him bilingual), have memorized some simpler words and is attempting to read other short words. So I’m thinking we’re just going to continue reading to him A LOT. Seems to be working so far.

  31. My brother was a stright A student in high school, so clearly he read well, and he did just fine in school before that as well, but he never read much for pleasure. My parents were concerned that he didn’t read, because that was about all I did in elementary school, but his teachers assured them that his ability was fine.

    In high school, he started reading for pleasure, and he has ever since, but he has never read much fiction. He reads biographies, political books (Al Franken’s books, for example, as well as much headier, less polemic works), popular science, like Stephen Jay Gould’s books, and just all sorts of odd things– Prometheus Press books, histories of things like the Spanish Inquisition.

    Is children’s literature lacking in interesting non-fiction?

    1. I have a husband who won’t read a stitch of fiction! As for children’s literature, I think there’s plenty of non-fiction; it’s just a matter of seeking it out. Picture books to look for: “An Egg is Quiet” by Dianna Hutts Aston; “The Day-Glo Brothers” by Chris Barton; “Pink and Say” by Patricia Polacco. Also, keep your eyes on the Cybils awards that includes a really great list of both fiction and non-fiction for youth: http://www.cybils.com.

  32. My brother was a stright A student in high school, so clearly he read well, and he did just fine in school before that as well, but he never read much for pleasure. My parents were concerned that he didn’t read, because that was about all I did in elementary school, but his teachers assured them that his ability was fine.

    In high school, he started reading for pleasure, and he has ever since, but he has never read much fiction. He reads biographies, political books (Al Franken’s books, for example, as well as much headier, less polemic works), popular science, like Stephen Jay Gould’s books, and just all sorts of odd things– Prometheus Press books, histories of things like the Spanish Inquisition.

    Is children’s literature lacking in interesting non-fiction?

    1. I have a husband who won’t read a stitch of fiction! As for children’s literature, I think there’s plenty of non-fiction; it’s just a matter of seeking it out. Picture books to look for: “An Egg is Quiet” by Dianna Hutts Aston; “The Day-Glo Brothers” by Chris Barton; “Pink and Say” by Patricia Polacco. Also, keep your eyes on the Cybils awards that includes a really great list of both fiction and non-fiction for youth: http://www.cybils.com.

  33. My little geeklet, Henry, taught himself to read when he was 4. Kindergarten was hard for him because the repetition of it all drove him crazy. When he started asking to take “mental health days” (his words, I swear) off from school, I spoke to his teacher and she set up a special book box for him where he could retreat and read whenever the ‘routine’ got to be too much for him. One of my mantras has always been “It’s not important that you know the answer, it’s important that you know how to FIND the answer”. I think he realized very early on that he wanted to be the one with the answers and that answers, often times, could be found in books.

    1. Amy, I’ve always said that it’s more important for my kids to know how to FIND the answers, rather than just to memorize answers ti questions that someone else deems important.

  34. My little geeklet, Henry, taught himself to read when he was 4. Kindergarten was hard for him because the repetition of it all drove him crazy. When he started asking to take “mental health days” (his words, I swear) off from school, I spoke to his teacher and she set up a special book box for him where he could retreat and read whenever the ‘routine’ got to be too much for him. One of my mantras has always been “It’s not important that you know the answer, it’s important that you know how to FIND the answer”. I think he realized very early on that he wanted to be the one with the answers and that answers, often times, could be found in books.

    1. Amy, I’ve always said that it’s more important for my kids to know how to FIND the answers, rather than just to memorize answers ti questions that someone else deems important.

  35. Funny thing… I don’t remember ever being read to as a child, but in kindergarten my mom was asked by my teacher to “please stop teaching him to read.” My mom’s response was “He can read?” So, apparently, I taught myself to read.

    Key to this was probably the fact that my parents’ house was full of things to read – newspapers, magazines, pocket books, etc. I don’t know if that would happen these days, because most people seem to be “too busy to read” – if parents wonder why their children aren’t reading, maybe they should start with the example they set? Just a thought.

  36. Funny thing… I don’t remember ever being read to as a child, but in kindergarten my mom was asked by my teacher to “please stop teaching him to read.” My mom’s response was “He can read?” So, apparently, I taught myself to read.

    Key to this was probably the fact that my parents’ house was full of things to read – newspapers, magazines, pocket books, etc. I don’t know if that would happen these days, because most people seem to be “too busy to read” – if parents wonder why their children aren’t reading, maybe they should start with the example they set? Just a thought.

  37. The key for my son was finding books he was interested in. This meant some strange things. One thing I will never forget was a giant tome that was an encyclopedia of ghosts, spirits and hauntings. We kept getting it from the library, over and over. He would pour over that thing.

  38. The key for my son was finding books he was interested in. This meant some strange things. One thing I will never forget was a giant tome that was an encyclopedia of ghosts, spirits and hauntings. We kept getting it from the library, over and over. He would pour over that thing.

  39. I have two boys (ages 10 and 7) who are voracious and good readers. I do agree with the assertion that they’ve got to be allowed to pick out their own reading material — both will push back when they’re restricted from following their interests. This has hit with both kids. My eldest has had teachers tell him there’s no way he could read the stuff he was reading, and they would replace books he was interested in with much less challenging books that didn’t hold his interest. I kept getting complaints that my avid reader wasn’t interested in reading during free reading time, and I think it was probably because he wasn’t truly free to read what he wanted. The youngest became quite resistant to reading in Kindergarten, where the focus was on sight reading words out of context. Flash cards are not a good way to inspire interest, at least as far as my kids are concerned. His Kindergarten teacher declared him behind in reading, but somehow after a summer break from the school’s methods he was reading on a mid-second grade level when he entered first grade.

    And yes, there’s already a lot of good material out there that’s appropriate for boys without going in the bathroom humor direction. I don’t keep them away from the bathroom humor, but the bathroom humor isn’t what keeps them coming back.

  40. I have two boys (ages 10 and 7) who are voracious and good readers. I do agree with the assertion that they’ve got to be allowed to pick out their own reading material — both will push back when they’re restricted from following their interests. This has hit with both kids. My eldest has had teachers tell him there’s no way he could read the stuff he was reading, and they would replace books he was interested in with much less challenging books that didn’t hold his interest. I kept getting complaints that my avid reader wasn’t interested in reading during free reading time, and I think it was probably because he wasn’t truly free to read what he wanted. The youngest became quite resistant to reading in Kindergarten, where the focus was on sight reading words out of context. Flash cards are not a good way to inspire interest, at least as far as my kids are concerned. His Kindergarten teacher declared him behind in reading, but somehow after a summer break from the school’s methods he was reading on a mid-second grade level when he entered first grade.

    And yes, there’s already a lot of good material out there that’s appropriate for boys without going in the bathroom humor direction. I don’t keep them away from the bathroom humor, but the bathroom humor isn’t what keeps them coming back.

  41. when I was growing up my dad would match any allowance money I spent on books. I grew up both thrifty and a reader! 🙂

  42. when I was growing up my dad would match any allowance money I spent on books. I grew up both thrifty and a reader! 🙂

  43. I think part of the problem is in parental attitudes. Given the attitude I saw from many parents on one parenting group I’m amazed any kids of any gender learn to read.

    My friend was asking about good beginning level books in Italian, because her son is bilingual and she has loads of suggestions for English books but needs more ideas for Italian. Her son was 3 1/2 when she was asking and loves books. He’s never without one even though he can’t read and the whole family are avid readers, so she wanted to have suitable books available so he could start learning.

    She wasn’t talking about forcing him to learn, simply saying he was very interested in books and she wanted the books available for him to start with.

    She was deluged by parents horrified that she would want him to read. Children should play when they’re that age because that’s how they learn, so she ‘shouldn’t make him read instead of doing things that are fun.’

    Reading isn’t fun? Honestly? Since when?

    She explained multiple times that she’s not talking about duct taping the kid to a chair and forcing him into anything, just letting him explore his love of books and learn in his own time, but they could not grasp this idea. Because learning to read and fun are concepts which are absolutely incompatible in their minds.

    Some kids will learn early, some will learn late. I’m certainly not advocating forcing your child to learn before they enter kindergarten. But when did we start associating reading with hard work instead of fun and if we do how can we possibly expect our children to want to do it?

    Not that this is a new thing. When I started nursery school at age 4 my teacher was horrified that I could already read and actually told my mother off. My mother ignored her and carried on offering me a choice of a book or sweets when we went to the shop. I own enough books now to start my own shop, and didn’t get a filling til I left school!

    1. My oldest son is 13 and had been reading at a high school level for several years. My 8-year old son is reading at a 6th grade level, slower in development than his older brother, but still respectful.

      I suppose that our family is atypical in that we homeschool and that we don’t have -any- electronic games. While my oldest wouldn’t care very much about video games, my 2nd boy has an “addictive” personality and ‘gloms’ onto that stuff every time he goes to a friend’s house to play.

      Teachers and parents seem to forget that learning to read (and school in general) is -work-, which takes time. By letting boys play video games, their 1) interest and 2) time budget both shrink dramatically to the point that most boys can’t get the work done or develop sufficient interest to learn to like reading and learn to read well.

      Not all homeschooling families succeed, or thrive, in this, and not all “traditional-school” families struggle or fail at teaching boys to read. But, given the difference in communication skills innate in young boys and young girls (not to mention the different styles of communication among adult women and men), I am perplexed (aghast, really) at the lack of sensitivity to gender differences in learning styles in attempting to teach children. And, unfortunately for many of our children, adults in many positions are unwilling to be “mean” enough to cut the distractions to learning out of boys’ lives to help them grow up to be men.

      — David B, Moscow, ID

    2. This is interesting. I was very much against the idea of “ditto sheets” and pushing kids to read in preschool/Kindergarten by tracing/memorizing words. I wonder if that’s what your friend’s friends imagined when she asked about books? While I’d never propose that for young kids, I think exposing kids to great books, reading aloud, and giving them the freedom to explore words is just such a natural process!

  44. I think part of the problem is in parental attitudes. Given the attitude I saw from many parents on one parenting group I’m amazed any kids of any gender learn to read.

    My friend was asking about good beginning level books in Italian, because her son is bilingual and she has loads of suggestions for English books but needs more ideas for Italian. Her son was 3 1/2 when she was asking and loves books. He’s never without one even though he can’t read and the whole family are avid readers, so she wanted to have suitable books available so he could start learning.

    She wasn’t talking about forcing him to learn, simply saying he was very interested in books and she wanted the books available for him to start with.

    She was deluged by parents horrified that she would want him to read. Children should play when they’re that age because that’s how they learn, so she ‘shouldn’t make him read instead of doing things that are fun.’

    Reading isn’t fun? Honestly? Since when?

    She explained multiple times that she’s not talking about duct taping the kid to a chair and forcing him into anything, just letting him explore his love of books and learn in his own time, but they could not grasp this idea. Because learning to read and fun are concepts which are absolutely incompatible in their minds.

    Some kids will learn early, some will learn late. I’m certainly not advocating forcing your child to learn before they enter kindergarten. But when did we start associating reading with hard work instead of fun and if we do how can we possibly expect our children to want to do it?

    Not that this is a new thing. When I started nursery school at age 4 my teacher was horrified that I could already read and actually told my mother off. My mother ignored her and carried on offering me a choice of a book or sweets when we went to the shop. I own enough books now to start my own shop, and didn’t get a filling til I left school!

    1. My oldest son is 13 and had been reading at a high school level for several years. My 8-year old son is reading at a 6th grade level, slower in development than his older brother, but still respectful.

      I suppose that our family is atypical in that we homeschool and that we don’t have -any- electronic games. While my oldest wouldn’t care very much about video games, my 2nd boy has an “addictive” personality and ‘gloms’ onto that stuff every time he goes to a friend’s house to play.

      Teachers and parents seem to forget that learning to read (and school in general) is -work-, which takes time. By letting boys play video games, their 1) interest and 2) time budget both shrink dramatically to the point that most boys can’t get the work done or develop sufficient interest to learn to like reading and learn to read well.

      Not all homeschooling families succeed, or thrive, in this, and not all “traditional-school” families struggle or fail at teaching boys to read. But, given the difference in communication skills innate in young boys and young girls (not to mention the different styles of communication among adult women and men), I am perplexed (aghast, really) at the lack of sensitivity to gender differences in learning styles in attempting to teach children. And, unfortunately for many of our children, adults in many positions are unwilling to be “mean” enough to cut the distractions to learning out of boys’ lives to help them grow up to be men.

      — David B, Moscow, ID

    2. This is interesting. I was very much against the idea of “ditto sheets” and pushing kids to read in preschool/Kindergarten by tracing/memorizing words. I wonder if that’s what your friend’s friends imagined when she asked about books? While I’d never propose that for young kids, I think exposing kids to great books, reading aloud, and giving them the freedom to explore words is just such a natural process!

  45. My sons both love books. We’re not homeschoolers, nor do we ban (or even discourage) video games, TV or other activities.

    At first it was just reading to them. I always read them a bedtime story, until they were about 6 or 7. We followed all the tips – following words with a finger, reading some books repeatedly, and sticking to what they like rather than trying to force anything on them. However, neither showed much interest in learning to read before kindergarten, they were content to listen.

    Eventually I stopped reading to them. One responded by picking up the books himself, and while he never became a comfortable or fast reader, he enjoys a good science-fiction or fantasy book. My other son was more resistant, it took a couple more years of his avoiding even memorizing even the whole alphabet. Then, like Ms. Bordessa’s child, he just had to know what the Harry Potter insanity was about. He jumped from being a pre-reader in 3rd grade to a 7th grade reader in less than 6 months.

    All it takes is finding the book that appeals to the individual boy. For some, Tom Sawyer and other boys’ “classics” will never click for some.

    When my older son joined the Navy, the first thing on his list was a Kindle, so that he could have a personal library of hundreds of books that he could travel with him around the world. My younger son, who recently graduated from high school, wants to do the same.

    Oh, yeah, that’s the other thing. Give a tech geek a book on a tech toy, and he’ll read. They’re so funny, reading Tolkien and other primitive-tech and magic fantasy stories on high tech tablets.

  46. My sons both love books. We’re not homeschoolers, nor do we ban (or even discourage) video games, TV or other activities.

    At first it was just reading to them. I always read them a bedtime story, until they were about 6 or 7. We followed all the tips – following words with a finger, reading some books repeatedly, and sticking to what they like rather than trying to force anything on them. However, neither showed much interest in learning to read before kindergarten, they were content to listen.

    Eventually I stopped reading to them. One responded by picking up the books himself, and while he never became a comfortable or fast reader, he enjoys a good science-fiction or fantasy book. My other son was more resistant, it took a couple more years of his avoiding even memorizing even the whole alphabet. Then, like Ms. Bordessa’s child, he just had to know what the Harry Potter insanity was about. He jumped from being a pre-reader in 3rd grade to a 7th grade reader in less than 6 months.

    All it takes is finding the book that appeals to the individual boy. For some, Tom Sawyer and other boys’ “classics” will never click for some.

    When my older son joined the Navy, the first thing on his list was a Kindle, so that he could have a personal library of hundreds of books that he could travel with him around the world. My younger son, who recently graduated from high school, wants to do the same.

    Oh, yeah, that’s the other thing. Give a tech geek a book on a tech toy, and he’ll read. They’re so funny, reading Tolkien and other primitive-tech and magic fantasy stories on high tech tablets.

  47. My son hasn’t gotten the reading bug yet but he’s just starting to sound out letters and really be interested in reading. We’ve been reading to him for years, and he loves to listen to books. And to look at the pictures. It’s just taking awhile for him to put it all together (and yes I’m trying not to panic.) I appreciate the good advice here, and the discussion!

  48. My son hasn’t gotten the reading bug yet but he’s just starting to sound out letters and really be interested in reading. We’ve been reading to him for years, and he loves to listen to books. And to look at the pictures. It’s just taking awhile for him to put it all together (and yes I’m trying not to panic.) I appreciate the good advice here, and the discussion!

  49. I am passionate about this topic. In fact, I have an entire blog category on Reluctant Readers (http://www.pragmaticmom.com/?cat=3154). I think the key to try lots of different thing. Mix it up and realize that what works now, will need be changed up. Model reading and read together (daily!). Get lots of book recs to test out from librarians, teachers, and peers of your child. Try audio books. Try graphic novels. Give reading incentives. Make reading fun. Put books everywhere including the bathroom. Change those books up weekly.

    It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

    ps is that a picture of your child? can i use it for my post on Caught in the Act … of READING? I love that photo!

    here’s a sample post; it’s my weekly Monday feature and I’m struggling to get pics! http://www.pragmaticmom.com/?p=12892 Thanks!

    1. The photo is not mine, but isn’t it great? It’s from FLickr and used under the Creative Commons license.

      I agree with you on all of your suggestions but one: incentives for reading. I feel strongly that reading and the story should be incentive enough. I recommend reading Alfie Kohn on the topic of praise and external motivators.

  50. I am passionate about this topic. In fact, I have an entire blog category on Reluctant Readers (http://www.pragmaticmom.com/?cat=3154). I think the key to try lots of different thing. Mix it up and realize that what works now, will need be changed up. Model reading and read together (daily!). Get lots of book recs to test out from librarians, teachers, and peers of your child. Try audio books. Try graphic novels. Give reading incentives. Make reading fun. Put books everywhere including the bathroom. Change those books up weekly.

    It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

    ps is that a picture of your child? can i use it for my post on Caught in the Act … of READING? I love that photo!

    here’s a sample post; it’s my weekly Monday feature and I’m struggling to get pics! http://www.pragmaticmom.com/?p=12892 Thanks!

    1. The photo is not mine, but isn’t it great? It’s from FLickr and used under the Creative Commons license.

      I agree with you on all of your suggestions but one: incentives for reading. I feel strongly that reading and the story should be incentive enough. I recommend reading Alfie Kohn on the topic of praise and external motivators.

  51. This is a question near and dear to me. I am a reader, that’s just what I do. I devour books, and our house has always been filled with books of all sorts. Even though my boys are older (10 and 12), we still read books together – the only difference is that now they sometimes are the ones reading aloud. We make bi-weekly trips to the library together, and I really encourage them to read whatever interests them, whether it be novels or comics.
    My younger son, he is a reader as well. He sneaks books at bedtime (with the booklight I so unwisely bought him), it is not unusual to find him half-dressed when it is time to leave for school, because he was more interested in reading than dressing. He usually is in the middle of 3 or 4 books at once, as his weighty backpack will attest.
    My older son, however, is not much of a reader, which has been very difficult for me to understand, because our entire family are readers, and I just can’t fathom a life not filled with books. He can read just fine, he just isn’t all that interested. Occasionally, he will find a book or series of books that really interest him, and will plow through them, but that is not the norm. He seems to like the idea of reading (every library trip he brings home a huge pile of books) but is not terribly fond of the execution. My youngest brother was much the same way, but now as an adult is a voracious reader. So, I just let it lie, continue to encourage reading without pushing, and cross my fingers that one day he will learn to love reading like I do.

    On the subject of audio books, while I understand that it is definitely not the same as reading, I think they can be useful. My son’s teacher (a former reluctant reader himself) suggested that he start listening to audio books for his required nightly reading, because it was becoming a huge battle to get him to read each night. Several of the books he listened to have become favorites, that he has since read himself. Listening to the audiobook was enough to spark his interest in books that he wasn’t terribly interested in prior (A good example is the Artemis Fowl series – I had encouraged him to read them for a couple years, and the paper copies sat on his nightstand without being touched. Post-audio book, he is now about halfway through reading them for real.) Books with online components, such as the Skeleton Creek, Trackers, and 39 Clues Series, have been a hit with him as well – the online component has been enough to draw him in, and he ended up enjoying the books.

  52. This is a question near and dear to me. I am a reader, that’s just what I do. I devour books, and our house has always been filled with books of all sorts. Even though my boys are older (10 and 12), we still read books together – the only difference is that now they sometimes are the ones reading aloud. We make bi-weekly trips to the library together, and I really encourage them to read whatever interests them, whether it be novels or comics.
    My younger son, he is a reader as well. He sneaks books at bedtime (with the booklight I so unwisely bought him), it is not unusual to find him half-dressed when it is time to leave for school, because he was more interested in reading than dressing. He usually is in the middle of 3 or 4 books at once, as his weighty backpack will attest.
    My older son, however, is not much of a reader, which has been very difficult for me to understand, because our entire family are readers, and I just can’t fathom a life not filled with books. He can read just fine, he just isn’t all that interested. Occasionally, he will find a book or series of books that really interest him, and will plow through them, but that is not the norm. He seems to like the idea of reading (every library trip he brings home a huge pile of books) but is not terribly fond of the execution. My youngest brother was much the same way, but now as an adult is a voracious reader. So, I just let it lie, continue to encourage reading without pushing, and cross my fingers that one day he will learn to love reading like I do.

    On the subject of audio books, while I understand that it is definitely not the same as reading, I think they can be useful. My son’s teacher (a former reluctant reader himself) suggested that he start listening to audio books for his required nightly reading, because it was becoming a huge battle to get him to read each night. Several of the books he listened to have become favorites, that he has since read himself. Listening to the audiobook was enough to spark his interest in books that he wasn’t terribly interested in prior (A good example is the Artemis Fowl series – I had encouraged him to read them for a couple years, and the paper copies sat on his nightstand without being touched. Post-audio book, he is now about halfway through reading them for real.) Books with online components, such as the Skeleton Creek, Trackers, and 39 Clues Series, have been a hit with him as well – the online component has been enough to draw him in, and he ended up enjoying the books.

  53. You’re certainly right about reading to kids. Decades later, it’s easy to recall my father sitting by the bedroom door, answering the plea to read just one more chapter. As an occasional treat, he’d read to us at length. Unfortunately, this had to end before the youngest was really able to read.

    I enjoyed this performance the longest, and read dad’s classic tales and fantasy voraciously, like a little paper cannibal. My younger sister also learned to associate reading with happiness, but quickly moved on from dad’s stories and discovered her own taste in the girl’s fiction of the day. My brother, the youngest, wouldn’t have read much if he hadn’t been allowed to pursue very different reading interests. First, comic books, then magazines, then war history… eventually he sought out hefty authors such as Harry Turtledove, but he needed to be allowed room to read things that few people would have recommended.

    Also vital –
    Providing half an hour between bedtime and lights out, and offering regular trips to the library.

    I suspect that having a computer or video game with written menus also helps, I think most of our generation of nerds had to learn to use the command line to get to our games. My husband certainly recalls using it a fair amount, and is an even bigger reader (Now he reads programming books as often as fiction. I suppose I may never make sense out of guys reading preferences. )

    If you read to them, eventually they’ll want to read something of their own… even if it’s not what you expect 😉

  54. You’re certainly right about reading to kids. Decades later, it’s easy to recall my father sitting by the bedroom door, answering the plea to read just one more chapter. As an occasional treat, he’d read to us at length. Unfortunately, this had to end before the youngest was really able to read.

    I enjoyed this performance the longest, and read dad’s classic tales and fantasy voraciously, like a little paper cannibal. My younger sister also learned to associate reading with happiness, but quickly moved on from dad’s stories and discovered her own taste in the girl’s fiction of the day. My brother, the youngest, wouldn’t have read much if he hadn’t been allowed to pursue very different reading interests. First, comic books, then magazines, then war history… eventually he sought out hefty authors such as Harry Turtledove, but he needed to be allowed room to read things that few people would have recommended.

    Also vital –
    Providing half an hour between bedtime and lights out, and offering regular trips to the library.

    I suspect that having a computer or video game with written menus also helps, I think most of our generation of nerds had to learn to use the command line to get to our games. My husband certainly recalls using it a fair amount, and is an even bigger reader (Now he reads programming books as often as fiction. I suppose I may never make sense out of guys reading preferences. )

    If you read to them, eventually they’ll want to read something of their own… even if it’s not what you expect 😉

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