I have a good friend who is the mother of three boys, ages ten, twelve, and fourteen. Corralling the ten year old and the twelve year old in order to get them to sit down to read a book is about as fun as trying to get your cat to love bathtime. It just doesn’t seem possible AND it’s an exhausting process. The boys sigh, they roll their eyes, and above all, complain, complain, complain. Their number one complaint? Reading is BORING.

 Summer vacation is upon us and it is likely your son is going to show up one day with a summer reading assignment. Here are some typical boy complaints followed by reasonable suggestions to make summer reading time fun and not an agonizing and drawn-out complain-fest.

 Your son says:

1.)    I don’t want to read the books on the summer reading list. If your child comes home with a generated reading list, look it over closely. If you know the books listed will not be interesting to your son, talk to the teacher or administration about choosing your own books. As Kristen stated in her previous post, older boys will take a greater interest in reading if they are provided with “non-girly” topics: how-to books, science books, graphic novels, etc. Take your son to the library or bookstore and allow him to choose reading material he can connect with.
2.)    It takes me too long to read just a chapter! Make sure your child does not have a physical problem that affects reading such as dyslexia or ADHD. Have him read aloud to you. Is his reading stilted? Does he stumble over words? Does he have trouble focusing? Talk to his reading teacher. You may require professional guidance if there is a physical reason to why your child struggles with reading.
3.)    I wish I was doing something else. Make reading time enticing for your son. Form a family book club. Serve a yummy snack every time you meet. Mix it up by reading to your son, having everyone partake in reader’s theater, or even going someplace special and peaceful to enjoy your reading materials (a hammock outside, the beach, a tree house etc.) 

Some other tips include:

  • Schedule a time to read. Your son is about to run outside to play with some friends. Now is NOT the time to inform him he needs to sit down and read for twenty minutes. Ask your child what the best time of day to do some reading would be. Right before bed? After lunch? Stick to one time and don’t spring anything upon him last minute!
  • Limit television watching. And, to an extent, video-game playing. An article from New Scientist states that “it is also possible that TV viewing may supplant other activities that promote concentration, such as reading, games, sports and play, he says. The lack of participation inherent in TV watching might also condition children when it comes to other activities.”  You may have to wean your child off of television, but it will be worth it.   He will find greater joy in seemingly mundane tasks, like reading.
  • Make sure your child has DAILY physical activity. Exercise improves concentration and stamina. Why? Exercise provides more blood to the brain, which enables the brain to take in more nutrients making you more alert and awake. Exercise also boosts energy, which in turn increases attention span. Read the article“Can Exercise Improve Grades?” from Family-Life magazine. Getting ample exercise is especially important for boys, who have an intrinsic and constant need for movement.
  • Don’t ever, ever use reading as punishment. The goal is to teach your child that reading is a fun form of entertainment. Using reading as punishment will negate any previous inroads made.
  • Model reading. If you don’t, why should he? Practice “doing what I do, not just what I say.”

Are there any last resorts?

If you try these methods and are STILL battling with your child then all is lost and you should give up. NO! I’m kidding!!! Contact your school to find a tutor or reading specialist who can work with your child. Often, children respond better to outside influences. Devise a plan with the tutor and work together to help your son become a better reader. Teaching your son to learn to love reading is a challenge worth seeing through to the end… I promise that someday he will thank you for not giving up on him.

Wondering what books boys love to read?  See my suggested summer reading post this coming Monday!

Posted in: Content

{ 8 comments… add one }

  • Jenna

    I love your tip of having kids exercise. That helps so much. Here are some things I did with my son to encourage him during reading sessions: http://www.jennascribbles.com/struggling-readers/encouraging-young-struggling-readers-a-mom%e2%80%99s-perspective/

    We’ve come a long way. He’s in 8th grade this year and last year he made the B honor role every quarter!


  • phaedra

    My ex husband use to make my son read adult chapter books when he was in 3rd grade as a punishment. How would i now teach him that it is fun at age 15?

    • Mike McQueen

      Mike McQueen

      Unbelievable! What a terrible way to punish him. Sign up for my email newsletter. I am about to announce a few big things that will help you and your 15 year old son.

  • Anonymous

    Nice post!

    I just wanted to add something that I’ve noticed in relation to reason #2 – “It takes ages to read a chapter!”. If your son has trouble reading out loud don’t panic! A lot of the boys in my classes who don’t read regularly can have difficulty focussing on the task at hand simply because they aren’t used to it and haven’t had practice.

    For younger boys (up until about age 12) I find a book that they’re interested in – a great book is the Guinness Book of Records, because it’s short, sweet, and I find that boys love finding out about all the weird things people have done to get inside – and sit with them and help them read through it.

    Older boys (13 and above) would scoff at the idea of reading with me (and I don’t blame them!) so I once again try to help them find a book that they’re not totally adverse to – as you said, how-to books, science books and graphic novels tend to really grab their attention, though in addition to this I have found that science fiction is a very popular genre as well.

    I also just wanted to add at the end that not only is teaching your son to enjoy reading a reward in of itself, it also has far-reaching effects in other areas of his life, first and foremost being his writing skills. A fantastic writer is always a prolific reader.

    Thanks again for the great post!

  • Debby-6-Kids

    Great post,Holly. I love the tips. And I have to agree that by giving them a choice of when they WANT to read helps. I believe it’s because they feel more "in control" of their lives. It’s amazing the time I have spent begging and pleading and then all of a sudden I find them with a book in their hands and getting the reply "NOW I want to read"…well, I should have known! :)

  • moonlight_zone

    I’d recommend to set a reading corner(A mini-library with their favourite books and board games)for your children at a very young age. I reckon it’s a very efficient and perhaps the easiest way to build their interest in reading!

  • Alyssa Ker

    Model reading. If you don’t, why should he? Practice “doing what I do, not just what I say.”
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  • Alyssa Ker

    Here are some typical boy complaints followed by reasonable suggestions to make summer reading time fun and not an agonizing and drawn-out complain-fest.
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