The challenge in motivating teenage boys to read is really getting them to read AGAIN. Most boys read when they are young, in the primary grades. For various reasons they lose the interest in reading as they get older. By the time they are teenagers, it may have been years since they read a book on their own.
Too Busy to Read
As boys get older their interests change, and activities like sports, social activities and the internet compete for their attention. Teenage boys’ schedules get busy as they join more activities and try to keep up with their schoolwork. If they only read in school and do not enjoy reading, they will equate reading with work. With an increasingly busy day, the last thing they want instead of TV is more work.
Encourage reading for entertainment. Reading doesn’t have to be work. Teenage boys looking to relax after a long day of school, homework and extra curricular activities will consider reading work if it’s not interesting to them. Tap into their interests by encouraging boys to read a comic book, a sports or game magazine or books about building models or science experiments. Books or magazines about doing things they enjoy will not only keep teenage boys entertained, but will also keep them reading.
Teenage boys easily lose interest in reading if the required reading topics in school do not appeal to them. Fiction and stories that girls enjoy are most often uninteresting and boring to boys. They may think of reading as something that is for girls only and not as a “male activity”.
Make an effort to make reading a male activity. Don’t look down on any type of reading. Encourage positive attitude and respect for reading non-fiction. Promote non-traditional forms of reading that appeal to teenage boys – non-fiction books about science, how-to topics, magazines, graphic novels, newspapers and autobiographies. Encourage the men in teenage boys’ lives – fathers, older brothers, cousins – to share what they are reading in the books, magazines or newspapers that they read. Teenage boys need to see that men read too.
Fear of the “Nerd” Label
Typically teenagers who do well in school and enjoy activities like reading and writing may be considered nerds. As teenagers boys develop their personalities and discover their unique traits and talents, they do not want to be seen as different. They want to fit in with their friends. The last thing they want is to be labeled a nerd because they enjoy reading.
Unfortunately, the nerd stereotype and the desire to avoid it is ingrained in the social environment at most schools. Teenage boys want to be seen as cool and are greatly influenced by peer pressure. While it would be difficult to change the attitude of an entire student body, you can provide a safe place where they are free from teasing for reading.
Parents can provide this safe place at home, where teenage boys are away from their friends and the risk of being teased. Even teachers in the bullseye of the teasing zone can provide safe outlets for teenage boys to read. Teachers can assign projects that require reading, but also include cool topics for boys like building machines, reporting on famous figures in modern day or writing their own “how-to” manuals. To encourage self-discovery without the risk of teasing, teachers can also allow some boys to go to the library during free study periods to explore on their own, making sure to separate boys from their group of friends.
It can be a challenge to get busy, too-cool-for-school teenage boys to read. It’s not that boys don’t want to read. Between their busy schedules and fear of being seen as “girly” or a “nerd”, it becomes easy for teenage boys to avoid reading. Having a positive attitude toward the topics they enjoy and providing a place to read free from teasing, can help teenage boys appreciate and enjoy reading again.