“I read like the flame reads the wood.”
― Alfred Döblin
Boys and books. We all want our boys to be readers. A solid reader will do better long-term in school. He will have stronger writing and communication skills. Plus, reading has fringe benefits, like increasing empathy. Most parents want their boys to read out of sheer love for the written word. Nothing comes close to getting lost in a good story.
But where the rubber meets the road, some boys just aren't interested in reading. It's tedious for them or they are easily bored. It is a challenge for them to sit long enough to concentrate. They would rather be shooting hoops or playing video games.
Don't give up. Like teaching them to ride a bike, or love steamed broccoli, you just need to keep at it. Here's how:
Number one, come at your boys from all sides. I'm talking about an absolute deluge. If you look at storytelling in the broadest sense of the word, then you're going to get good literature into the mind of your son in every way possible. Parents set up nightly reading routines when their children are small, but what about when they're older? Kids love a good story. Pick a favorite book and read it out loud to your boys, over breakfast, at dinner, on long car trips, and at night in bed. Share the experience with them.
Check out audio books from the library (free!), or invest in a monthly subscription to something like Audible. Most families spend a lot of time in the car. These are minutes that could be spent listening to good stories. I use audio books to introduce my boys to books they might not pick up on their own, often classics they've termed "boring." An audio book, well read, is as gripping as live theater. We've worked our way through dozens of books. Not only that, but my boys who are strong auditory learners love digesting books this way.
Surround your boys with physical books. Put a bookshelf in his room and fill it over time. Buy books for your son's birthday, and for holidays. Make books a treat. Take advantage of the (free!) public library. Go often. Get all kinds of books, in all kinds of subjects. A few of my boys steer toward nonfiction and how-to manuals. Another really likes graphic novels. We come home with stacks and stacks of books.
Make time for reading. If the choice is between a book or the TV, the TV is going to win every time. Our brains will always travel the path of least resistance. Make a time each day that is device-free. Give boys time and space to read before bed. Develop incentives. I allow my boys to see a movie adaptation only after they've read the book. I should mention here that parents need to set the example. Kids note, even peripherally, what their parents are doing. So read books yourself, and let your kids see you reading. Share what you're learning. Teach your kids that reading is part of the family culture.
Don't force it. Although teachers are well-intentioned, I'm not a fan of daily reading logs in school, because it makes reading look like another task, something to get done. Likewise, I really dislike reading levels. The children's author Beatrix Potter learned to read by muddling her way through Sir Walter Scott's "Ivanhoe." So take reading levels with a grain of salt. Allow your boys to read above and below their level, and don't force them to read certain books. I am putting new books into the hands of my kids all the time. Some they take, others they put aside. I also use the bait method. I'll read the first few chapters aloud, and my curious boys will pick it up and read the rest on their own.
Don't give up. I love books. Our house is swimming in good books. So naturally I assumed that my kids would all be readers like me. They are not. None of them sit in a corner, or at the table or up in a tree reading for hours on end, the way I did as a child. But they all love stories. We talk a lot about story. They have found their own niches and passions when it comes to literature, and when they dive in, they dive deep. For some that didn't come until they were much older. For others the interest waxes and wanes, but I make books a part of our everyday diet. If you do that, you will grow a boy who reads, and loves it.