Sometimes it's hard to get boys interested in reading. I've heard from many of my friends that their boys simply aren't readers--not because they don't know how to read well, but because they just don't care about it. They'd rather be playing sports or video games, building with Legos, or having Nerf gun wars. I'm thankful I don't have this problem, but I do want to encourage those of you with boys who could care less about reading.
My son is the most avid reader I know. He has spent thousands of hours pouring over books, books, and more books. I am certain he has read more books in his 10 years than I have read in 30. We have a hard time keeping him supplied with books because he goes through them so quickly. He has over 100 books on his personal bookshelf in his room, plus he frequently snags books off his sister's shelves or our living room shelves. Don't let this cocky smirk fool you; this kid LOVES to read.
I've asked him to compile a list of his 21 favorite books and/or series of all time. If you have a boy ages 8-12, he might enjoy reading some of the selections from another boy's list, and it might save you the effort of trying to find books for your young men that you know they'll enjoy.
1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien (These are at a high school reading level. Make sure your boys are capable of that level of reading before turnin' 'em loose.)
2. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
3. The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
4. Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis
5. Old Yeller by Fred Gipson
6. Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss
7. Stuart Little by E.B. White
8. The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis
9. Crispin: The End of Time by Avi (Last in a series of 3; goes well with a study of the Middle Ages)
10. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
11. The Spy and General Washington by William Wise
12. The Dragons of Blueland by Ruth Stiles Gannett (last in the My Father's Dragon series of 3)
13. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
14. The Railway Children by E. Nesbit
15. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle
16. The Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner (My son read these when he was 6, but they work well for younger readers or those who are just starting to enjoy chapter books.)
17. Hank the Cowdog series by John R. Erickson
18. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
19. The Vikings by Clyde Robert Bulla
20. Heidi by Joanna Spyri
21. Augustus Goes South by Le Grand
Additionally, if you're looking for ways to encourage your young'uns to read, here are six suggestions:
1. Get them their very own e-reader, such as a Kindle or Nook. A boy who wouldn't naturally jump at picking up a paperback might be very willing to go for a book that is contained in a piece of technology. We gave our son a regular Kindle (no bells or whistles) for Christmas, and he has downloaded over 100 books on it for free! Having the freedom to download and read books on their own can really encourage reluctant readers to enjoy reading. (Our son isn't allowed to purchase books on his Kindle without permission, and every time he downloads something, my husband gets an e-mail, so we know exactly what he has access to.)
2. Limit technology, TV, and video games. I know, I just recommended e-readers and now I'm telling you to limit technology. We have always had pretty strict restrictions on the amount of TV/movies our children have been able to watch, and we have severely limited their access to video games. (We used to own a Wii, but they only played on it every few weeks. Now it's packed away in a box and may never see the light of day again, I hope.) This has worked to our advantage. If a screen isn't trying to lure them in, a book is a very appealing choice.
3. Get them familiar with the library. A shelf of books that doesn't look appetizing at home might seem like the greatest thing ever somewhere else, like the library. Kids have the freedom to choose (ok, some freedom) their books based upon what interests them and not just what you hand them. You'll have to set guidelines ahead of time for what they're allowed to bring home. For example, as much as my son may want to read it, Diary of a Wimpy Kid isn't allowed in our home. Your child's choices are up to you.
4. Entice them with a book-based movie. I realize this won't work with every book, but it's great fun to watch an approved movie after finishing a well-loved book. When our son wanted to watch The Lord of the Rings movies, the requirement was that he read the books first. He couldn't wait! He finished The Hobbit in less than two weeks and got to enjoy a movie day with Daddy watching both Hobbit movies. Other books-turned-movies we love: Old Yeller. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; Prince Caspian; and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Black Beauty. Charlotte's Web. Unfortunately, there are some wonderful books that have been ruined (in my opinion) with poorly made movies. You're going to have to determine what works for your family.
5. Create a fun and cozy reading space. My children's favorite place to read is in their beds. But your kids may associate their bed with sleeping and not a comfy activity like reading. If you have an unused corner in your home, try creating a "Reading Corner". Make it cozy with bean bag chairs or floor pillows, a cute lamp, and maybe a soft blanket. Then leave a selection of adventurous books lying around for your children to pick up and get lost in! I absolutely love this idea to turn a dormer space into a fun reading nook!
6. Let them see you reading. You can't very well expect your children to be avid readers if you don't read yourself, can you? Let your children see you engrossed in the pages of a book, not wanting to put it down. This will show them that reading is fun no matter what your age and that they, too, can take part in adventures on the pages of books.
7. Read to them often. This is probably the most important suggestion I can give to anyone. Start reading good, living books to your children from the time they are in the womb. Make reading a priority, and they'll grow up with books being at the center of their childhoods. No matter how old your children are, always keep reading to them. Give characters special voices and accents, do whatever you can to make it fun and interesting. One of the best experiences of my life was reading the last chapter of C.S. Lewis' The Last Battle to my children. We all cried together for joy at the ending! When you read to your children, you are making literature come alive to them and creating lasting memories together; and I promise you they'll crave more.
Do your kids LOVE reading? How have you generated interest in books at your house? I'd love to know!