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Common-Sense Strategies to Turn Your Kids (Especially Boys) into Voracious Readers

By amywindsor |

Praise all your child's reading choices

The issue of children and reading is always a hot topic among parents, a source of pride for some and a chafing point for others. For some moms, like myself, it can be a huge challenge to figure out how to get their sons interested in reading. In a world that offers twenty four hours of cartoons a day, an almost infinite array of video games via the internet, and the constant pull of Legos and neighborhood friends, it seems like a boy can always find something he’d rather do than read. At least mine can.

As a girl who grew up devouring every book I could lay my hands on, my son’s reticence to pick one up is extremely frustrating, especially when I know he loves stories. If he had his druthers, I would be reading to him or he would have books playing on his iPod every day. So why the apathy when it comes to actually picking up a book and diving in?

The best selling author, James Patterson, has a lot of ideas on the subject and, in a recent CNN op-ed, offers some great common-sense advice to parents on getting their child to be a “reading fanatic.”

While Patterson may not have all the answers, he certainly has some great ideas– and as the recipient of the Children’s Book Councils’ Children’s Choice Book Awards “Author of the Year” award in 2010, he is more than qualified to offer some some words of wisdom on the topic.

Patterson starts his article by reminding parents that it is THEIR job to turn their children into readers, not their children’s schools. And that the “simple but powerful truth” that parents and teachers fail to act on is that, “The more kids read, the better readers they become.” And the trick to getting kids to read more is giving them choices. He notes that the number one reason kids say they don’t want to read is because “they can’t find books they like.” Give them the freedom of choice and they will get excited and motivated.

This advice is especially relevant with boys, who are often told by teachers and parents that their comic books or copy of the “Guinness Book of World Records” aren’t “real books.” Patterson warns that not praising boys for their reading choices, no matter how far off the recommended reading lists an adult may deem them, is a tragic and avoidable mistake. He asks adults to make boys feel great about their reading choices, because that translates into making the boys feel great about reading.

I’m not proud to admit it, but I have been guilty of chiding my eldest boy’s reading choices (The Simpsons comic books! *fret worry fret*) and trying to get him to read traditional fiction books that *I* thought he should love. At twelve, he is still a reluctant reader and while I decided over two years ago that I would just be happy if he read anything and have praised him accordingly when he did, I can’t help but feel guilty about my interference when he was younger. I can only continue to encourage him and know that, with two younger sons in the wings, it is not a mistake I will repeat.

James Patterson recommends the site GuysRead.com as a great resource for finding general-information books for boys. He also recommends these sites for excellent book ideas: ReadKiddoRead, Oprah.com’s Kids’ Reading Lists, and The American Library Association. In addition, he encourages parents to take advantage of Scholastic Books, school book fairs, FirstBook.org, and ReaderToReader.org, all great places to find quality low-cost books.

James Patterson is the author of “Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life” is a NY Times No. 1 best seller, as well as “Maximum Ride,” “Daniel X,” and the “Witch & Wizard” young adult series. He also created the website, “Read Kiddo Read,” to help parents find great books for their children to read.

Photo Credit: pingu1963/flickr.com/creativecommons

Read more posts by Amy Windsor aka @theBitchinWife:
Why We Need to Encourage Our Boys’ Friendships
Could Home Ec Help Solve America’s Obesity Problem?
Should There Be a Law? 150 Children (So Far!) From One Sperm Donor

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About amywindsor

amywindsor

amywindsor

Amy Windsor is an avid mommy blogger whose blog, Bitchin' Wives Club, was named one of Babble's Top 100 Mom Blogs in 2012. She was a contributor to Babble's Parenting channels.

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10 thoughts on “Common-Sense Strategies to Turn Your Kids (Especially Boys) into Voracious Readers

  1. Linda, t.o.o. says:

    My advice on getting your child to love reading is to not ever expose him/her to those horribly ghost-wrritten novels that James Patterson tries to pass off as “books” these days. :/

  2. Linda, t.o.o. says:

    Oops. Wrong James Patterson.

  3. Max Elliot Anderson says:

    Great article, thank you.

    I grew up hating to read and now write adventures & mysteries, for readers 8 – 13, especially boys. Books for Boys Blog http://booksandboys.blogspot.com

  4. Jessi says:

    Thank you for this article!!! it comes at the perfect time. My son who is 6 just started kindergarten i’ve probably been trying for the past 2 years to get him to have an interest in reading he has 0. i know he loves having stories read to him but no interest in attempting to do it himself. i know i have steered him clear sometimes of his actual selection at a book store and i see now that i have been doing it all wrong. I guess i need to let him get that pokemon book etc… that he really wants. In the meantime i’m definitely going to check out guysread.com for some more help :) Thank yOU!!!

  5. Andrea says:

    My mom would come home from the bookstore with a book for me and comic books for my three brothers. My son, who is five and half and is starting to read simple sentences LOVES his comic books. I bought some of the really challenging full on graphic novels that he likes to look through, and he’s motivated to get better at reading so he can find out exactly how bad the Borg really are.
    Caution: Parents really need to read the comics first. They are not all suitable for children, and Japanese manga comics in particular need to be reviewed. Some of them can get pretty explicit, both in terms of voilence and sexual content. Star Trek and the regular Superheroes are pretty safe bets, but comics are not the same as they were when we were kids.

  6. Jeannie says:

    My son was an early reader and was always pretty in to books, but he’s recently changed his focus from picture books / chapter books to comics. I don’t care — he’s still reading! His dad and I buy him comic books — anything to just keep it up. I figure he’ll come back to regular books eventually if we just keep encouraging reading of ANYTHING. And if he doesn’t — well, there are some pretty amazing graphic novels out there. I don’t understand why comics are so vilified … it’s still words on a page, and a story. Better reading something than nothing!

  7. Gigi_ITPR says:

    Wow Amy your post couldn’t have come at a better time – my 4 yo has just started school and I’m already worried about him falling behind due to his huge reticence to even try to learn letters or phonics or whatever. I’m also hugely guilty of disregarding his choices of Scoob Doo comics or Star Wars stuff etc – your point is right, if they want to read something enough, then they will be more into learning. Although I’m still hoping that one day he and I can open that copy of Moby Dick together!
    Thanks xxx

  8. Linda, t.o.o. says:

    @Jessi, the easiest books to use to teach kindergartners to read are the BOB books. Nice and short, with a simple intro to a specific phonics lesson in each.

  9. Angela Bueti says:

    What an insightful and well-written post about getting boys into books. Nothing could be truer than the messages conveyed here – let boys choose what they read, praise them for their choices, and parents are the key to getting their kids turned onto reading. It’s not rocket science but it is vitally important for every parent to understand and embrace. Thanks for this brilliant post – I will be sharing it with my facebook community @wowbooks4boys. Angela

  10. Michelle says:

    I wholeheartedly agree. I have tried a number of different strategies with my boys, but ultimately, the best way to get them reading, is to either allow them to choose their own books, or help them choose ones they will (hopefully!) enjoy. Graphic novels are an absolutely fabulous way to encourage even the most reluctant of readers. Parents also need to commit to turning their boys into readers, and that includes carving out family reading time as much as possible. I have seen a huge change in my boys’ willingness to read since we started sitting down to read as a family. This is precious, quiet time that we would otherwise probably not have together!
    In the meantime, my various strategies and experiments with my own boys have allowed me to develop an online reading log/reading incentive program that is now used by thousands of kids and teachers worldwide! Please feel free to visit at http://www.reading-rewards.com .

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