How to Help If Your Son Doesn't Enjoy Reading

Experts share ideas to make reading enticing — even for boys who don't gravitate toward books.



How to Help If Your Son Doesn't Enjoy Reading

If you have a son, it's no surprise to you that tween and teen boys read less and tend to score lower on standardized reading tests than girls. You know that your son has things he finds far more interesting than actually reading a book. He never asks for a book, and often complains bitterly about the ones assigned at school. In fact, he tells you he'd rather die than read classics like Little House on the Prairie or The Diary of Anne Frank.

Make Reading Useful, Fun, and Funny
Don't despair. A new generation of experts on boys and reading finally has some cures. "Any boy can and will get excited about reading, if you make it useful, fun, and funny," says John Scieszka, author of The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales and founder of the popular website"We have to give them more choices, and especially more nonfiction. Boys like to read for a purpose, to find out how to do things, like how to build a dirt bike or skateboard. That's just not encouraged enough."

Start With What He Loves
So if you have a kid who hates books, where do you begin? All three experts agree that it's crucial to begin at the beginning, with what your son loves. "Kids will read when you focus on what they love. If a kid is a sports kid, I'm going to do my darnedest to find a book about a sport that kid loves," says Lisa Von Drasek, head children's librarian at Bank Street College of Education in New York City. "If he loves bikes, I'm going to look for books about bikes, bicycling, anything that feeds that interest."

Humor is another winner with boys. "Humor is underrated on school reading lists, but boys love it," says Sciezska, whose own hit, The Stinky Cheese Man, is a playful book that pokes fun at classic fairy tales. "Calvin and Hobbes, Lemony Snicket, those books get them excited about reading, because it's fun."

Other ideas from the experts:

  • Model reading. Studies show that when parents read and have books around, both boys and girls are more likely to be readers.
  • Give your boy a book. Choose one that's related to a hobby, an interest, or is just fun.
  • Don't give up. "Sooner or later, using comics, magazines, anything that connects to an interest or a passion, you can hook any child on reading. It's all a matter of patience," says Von Drasek.
Developing Reading Skills
Memory and Memorization
Age 13
Age 12
Age 11
Humor and Positive Thinking
Independent Reading
Reading for Pleasure