Did you know that boys are scoring much lower than girls in reading proficiency tests? I ran across an excellent article today about How to Raise Boys that Read, which addresses the problem of what people are trying to do to solve the problem!
The author mentions desperate parents trying to bribe a 13 year old boy to read, using video games. I understand their desperation (I have two teenagers myself), but the tactic seems counter-productive to me. They may get him to read a book or two, but they’re also teaching or reinforcing the idea that video games are desirable, and books are one of those unpleasant things in life that you have to do just because your parents say so.
Boys won’t read more unless they are taught the value of a good book. The key word here is taught. It takes time. There’s no quick way to do it. The easiest way is to make reading part of every day life from babyhood, reading together often and giving the child books as presents.
Though it’s not as easy, you can still teach an older child, by making the book or reading time the reward, or by “allowing” a boy to do things like stay up and read when you wouldn’t let him stay up otherwise. Have good quality books available at all times, and set a limit for time spent on less desirable pursuits.
And I can’t stress enough the importance of example. Regularly bring home a variety of books from the library. Let him see you reading, and talk often about the books you’ve read. Don’t turn it into a lecture. Share your favorite part, or something funny from the book. (Better yet, laugh loudly every so often while you read, so he’ll wonder what you’re reading about!) Talk about an idea you read and why you do or don’t agree with it. You don’t even have to share these things with him at first, you can just start discussions with your spouse at the dinner table in front of your son, and maybe he’ll join in with his opinion at some point.
For a boy that’s still young enough to let you read to him but old enough to read by himself, find a very compelling, page-turner kind of book and read to a very suspenseful part – then put the book down and walk away. Hopefully he’ll be dying to know what happens, and compelled to pick the book up and at least read the next paragraph or two.
Treat books as treasures and eventually they will, too.