As a classroom teacher, one of my main concerns was ‘How can I get my reluctant readers interested in reading?’… I’d ask other teachers, attend professional development seminars, read books, and search the internet to find whatever available about the topic. What I read and researched seemed to connect to what was happening in my classroom… most often, it was my male students, (not all) but mostly, which would openly state that they disliked reading. They did not read for pleasure at home and being an avid reader and knowing how important literacy skills are for success in most occupations- I needed to change they way these students viewed reading. Not only for their success as students but for their futures and perhaps (this was always my secret wish) I could lead them to a new path, one that leads them to loving literacy. Whether my reluctant readers found a love and passion for comics, mysteries, reading blogs, or a love of technical or how-to books! So long as it changed their view of reading; I was elated!
Students aren’t born with a hate/distaste for reading. This is developed over time, sometimes it is developed along with difficulties and obstacles along with a lack of strategies to overcome them. Educators know the importance of reading at home, as well as the importance for “read alouds” to take place at home but the reality is that it will not occur in every home. It did not for me as a child and yet I grew to love reading and was a very successful student. As I thought about this topic, I came across an article that focused on using comics and graphic novels to stimulate interest- I thought- HECK- I’ll try anything! I bought a variety of books from the Scholastic Arrow, Lucky, and other sources that were financially feasible for me and brought them into class. As time went on, I introduced my students (all of them- not just the reluctant readers) to the various types of literature available to them and made it available, always, in our classroom library.
I found that my reluctant readers would pick up books that were typically nonfiction in nature: books about cars, motorcycles, bugs, athletes, biographies of athletes, magazines, and even articles from the local paper that I would laminate and keep over time if I found the topic something appropriate for the classroom.
A few years ago (about 3 years)- I came upon a resource called “Guys Read.” It came with a video which I played and found that “Guys Read” is a not for profit literacy project developed by one of my favorite authors, Jon Scieszka. (pronounced Sheska) He is the author of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, The Frog Prince Continued, The Stinky Cheese Men and Fairly Other Stupid Tales, Math Curse, Science Verse, the Time Warp Trio series, and many more amazing books. (find them HERE)
Here is a summary of what Jon Scieszka’s research has found out about boys and reading…
After polling boys throughout the country about the activities they enjoy, the findings were similar in every city from Manhattan, NewYork to Manhattan, Kansas-
Here are the top 4 activities boys prefer and in this order:
1. Video Games
Disturbing, but TRUE data: 8th grade boys are 50% more likely to be held back than girls!
What do WE (researchers, educators, administrators, reading specialists, parents, anyone working with kids!) need to do to make a change?!!
1. Acknowledge that boys are different…. because they are!!
* Boys across the nation have already voiced their interest in nonfiction literature. They enjoy reading action- adventure books, books about sports, memoirs from their sports favorites… We need to give them the freedom to read the above-
My belief is that once we have allowed them the opportunity to read about their interests, these reluctant readers will begin to enjoy reading- once you (the teacher) feel you have ‘hooked’ them into reading, then is the time to introduce other genres. If you push too soon- you will get resistance… this is me, speaking from experience, I’ve had it happen each way. Let them develop a love for books, then you’ve made a life long reader- KUDOS!
Guys read suggests:
2. Expand the scope of texts/materials available; include a wider variety of reading!
Texts other than literary fiction should be provided: Magazines, newspapers (sports section), comic books, graphic novels, Magic Tree house books, start a Boys Only Book Club, boys are attached to the plot of a book versus the characters- tailor lessons to discussing plot development! Allow boys to run their books clubs
3. Recommend titles other boys have enjoyed!
Have boys share books and make recommendations regarding specific titles they have enjoyed. “Book Hooks” where children share a portion of a favorite book with the class to entice others to want to read the book and then have a sign-up list available for the book for interested students. “Book Hooks” are sometimes called ‘book blessings’ or ‘authors chair’ but any program in a similar format will do the job!
4. Find and Have Male Role models to share books and connect with your boy readers, especially your most reluctant ones.
SHOW that other MALES read too…Once boys see that other boys/men read, reading for pleasure will no longer be thought of as a ‘girls-only’ activity. Develop reading buddies with older boys from upper-grades in your school or surrounding schools.
Look into community leaders and your school’s community/business partnerships, most likely you will have many males willingly wanting to come in to share a favorite book!
Go to the Guys Read website- for more suggestions! http://www.guysread.com/
5. EMPOWER BOYS! Put boys in charge of their own reading!
*Develop reading lists that they may choose from that contain “guy-friendly” titles.
*Consult with your colleagues, your media specialist, and local librarians- you would be amazed at the perspectives others may offer….
Remember to also check the Guys Read website for more recommendations!
(information adapted from Guys Read video available from Scholastic and/or Guys Read website.)
Ralph Fletcher also has wonderful information regarding what boys need as writers… check back for future postings on his book- Boy Writers: Reclaiming Their Voices
His website has an abundance of wonderful resources- check them out at