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As a mom who has raised two girls and a boy, one thing I can tell you for sure when it comes to instilling a love of reading is that….boys need a completely different approach than girls!
I will soon be sending my son, my youngest child, off to college. In his pile of “things to take to college” I am sure there will be many books; some new, some familiar old favorites. I think of this and smile because there was a time when he was the epitome of a reluctant reader. Here’s is what I’ve learned about boy readers over the last 18 years:
Boys and Girls approach reading differently. Where we often times label boys as late starters, or slow to embrace reading, it could just be their normal. But that doesn’t mean they can have great reading moments and a literary life as an active reader. Please note that there are a wide range of reading styles and every single child is different regardless of gender. Here are just a few things while reading with boys.
Boys have a very specific reading stages and styles.
From birth to 6 or 7, boys love to listen to stories. As much as you have the vision of them cuddling up in your lap to listen to a story, boys are great at multi-tasking while listening to a story. It’s OK to have them on the floor playing with blocks, Legos, animals. They might be moving around the room or hanging off the sofa all the while you’re reading the best book ever. Every now and then they’ll come out of their movement to have a look at an illustration. It’s all good. The more words children hear, the more their brains develop and they learn the habit of associating stories with books and words.
The Transition Stage
I encourage families to keep reading to their children even after they’ve become independent readers. It establishes a book culture in the home and family and the importance of reading. Many boys like to remain in the listening phases for a really long time as they learn to read independently. You’ll notice that once they start learning to read on their own that they will actually sit and listen to you read to them for longer periods of time. At this point they become interested in discovering how the words work on a page. A great fun thing to do is to point your finger along as you read and then as they become solid readers, let them do it. It builds great tracking skills, word recognition, and comprehension.
The Boy Book Stage
Children in general like to read about characters they can relate to. Nothing is more truthful than boys and books. I call this the boy book stage because boys want to read about boys doing boy stuff. Some examples of books that do this is Captain Underpants Series, Big Nate Series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series, and the How to Train Your Dragon Series.
Boys like to read books that have things broken down into short snippets of information and then a cartoon, or illustration that goes with it. Their brains are just wired that way. They also like to read series. Once they make a friend inside a book they want to check back up on him again and again. A trust has been established and boys remain loyal to that trust with the author who has entertained them.
As boys continue to grow as readers they want to meet characters who are going through the same things they are.
In general boys like to read alone and not out loud. If they are going to read out loud it will be with a very good guy buddy. They will share the book back and forth between them laughing at various parts of the story and pictures. Don’t be surprised if they move all over the place inside a book. It’s not a linear movement through the book but a sharing of one’s favorite parts with a good friend.
Hero’s Journey Stage
Around the age of 10 or 11 boys want to read about who they want to become or can imagine themselves being. They want action, adventure, bravery, and the ability to outwit by leaps and bounds. This stage takes them all the way through high school.
A great transition series into the Hero Journey’s stage is Percy Jackson. If you should have a reluctant reader I promise that the Percy Jackson series is the one for you. And once your reader has conquered the Percy Jackson series…here’s my list of “books like Percy Jackson” that will keep them reading longer!
They are page turners that will leave both adults and kids reading way into the night or getting up early just to see what happens. By the time your reluctant reader finishes the first series in the Percy Jackson saga, they will be hooked to reading for life. Percy is our ace in the hole. Love Rick Riordan and what he has done for reading and kid lit.
Boy’s love reading and they do it in their own special way. Just remember to go with their flow, have lots of reading material all around the house and car, and provide them with a great role model by having them see you read all the time.
Wishing you many happy adventures reading with your boy(s). They’ll open up new worlds you didn’t know existed. Happy Reading.
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Valarie Budayr is the founder of Audrey Press and author of the books, Dragon Are Real! A Year in the Secret Garden, The Fox Diaries: The Year the Foxes Came to our Garden and The Ultimate Guide To Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. She is passionate about making kid’s books come alive and when she isn’t jumping into a book and creating wildly inventive adventures, she is “mom” to three uber creative children, married to a wonderfully patient man who has come to love yarn, proud owner of one adored cat, and the Fox Whisperer to lots and lots of Foxes (that come and go as they please). You can also find Valarie on Facebook or on Twitter at @JumpIntoaBook1.