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Encouraging boys to read

All parents want to support their child’s early education. As the parent of a boy, it can be a worry to read headlines suggesting that boys often underachieve, especially with reading. Fortunately, there are lots of ways you can help.

Read (or watch) Gary Wilson give his expert advice on how to raise boys’ achievement by encouraging them to read.

What do we know about boys and reading?

Of course, all children are different, and no two boys are going to be interested in exactly the same things. The best way to find out what your boy is interested in reading is to ask him! However, there are a few broad themes to consider when you are trying to motivate your child to read:

  • Boys are often less likely to start a conversation about what they are reading than girls, so try to find ways to chat informally about a news story, magazine, book, or even a film.
  • Boys sometimes prefer books that heavily feature humour, science fiction, action, or horror.
  • Interest in a topic really does make a difference to their understanding, so it is worth choosing books that closely match their interests and hobbies.

With these ideas in mind, motivation and attention-grabbing content have to be the top priorities if you want to get your son to read – and to stick with it. Here are my top tips.

1. Praise

Boys need lots of praise. Often they see themselves as getting attention for all the wrong reasons. So, give your son lots of approval for all the right reasons! A good rule of thumb is to say three positive things for every negative.

When giving praise, try to be specific about what it is your son has done to earn the praise.

Our free eBook library has lots of books perfect for encouraging boys.

2. Talk

If you want to help your son do better, it’s important to get him talking (and listening!) right from the start. You can help in several ways:

  • Show an interest in what your son is doing (even if the subject doesn’t interest you!) and ask questions about it.
  • Talk with him, rather than at him.
  • It’s important to be patient. Listen with interest, keep the conversation going, ask questions, and don’t leap in with an answer. Easier said than done!

3. Be independent

To help your son be independent from an early age, you could encourage him to:

  • get himself dressed in the morning
  • make a list of everything he needs for school that day
  • make his own decisions about a few things in the week’s routine.

4. You can do it!

Boys often feel that mistakes equal failure. A common response to making mistakes is therefore to say that they ‘can’t do it’. To help your son feel that he can do it, give him lots of encouragement when he does something well. It’s also important to remember that mistakes don’t equal failure; it’s just the way we learn.

5. Read, read, read!

It’s really important to show boys that reading is a good thing for men to do. So, granddads, dads, brothers, uncles… you need to get reading too!

  • Read with expression and enthusiasm.
  • Talk about the characters, plot, and pictures along the way.
  • Make reading a fun time for both of you. Take a look at our blog post on Building reading dens >

Reading together is crucial for boys of all ages. It helps them see that it’s not only a skill for life, but good fun too.

Video support

Video: Getting the best out of boys

Expert in raising boys’ achievement Gary Wilson shares his five top tips to help get boys reading.