If you are the parent of a teenage boy who enjoys reading, most people will think you are incredibly lucky. But often it’s about a lot more than luck. You have probably actively or unconsciously taken steps to help your son develop a love of reading. There are practical strategies all parents can use to increase their teenagers’ love of reading. And they work for girls as well as boys…
Here are some practical strategies that are worth trying if you know your teenager is reluctant to even look at that new book… (And it’s compulsory reading for English!)
1. Model reading
This is a strategy that works better the earlier you start. If little children grow up seeing that the adults in their lives enjoy reading, they often follow. Let your child see that you really enjoy reading.
2. Talk about reading
With young and older children, make occasional comments about a book you are currently reading that you really love. “I can’t wait to see what happens. It’s a real thriller.” Or “One day when you have time, I think you would love this book. It’s amazing!”
3. Find writers on your son’s wavelength.
Hopefully there has been one book that your son has enjoyed. Find other books by this author. If there are none, ask a librarian to suggest similar writers and books. How can you convince your son to even try one of these? Read one or two yourself. Leave them around the house where he can see them and may pick them up. Buy a copy of one for his next birthday.
4. Try bribery!
“If you read this book, I’ll cook your favourite chocolate cake.” You might substitute the chocolate cake for a pizza or another preferred culinary delight. Don’t go overboard and promise expensive gifts! If your son asks why you are so determined to have him read this book, be honest. Tell him that all of the research shows that boys and girls who read more do better at school and in life. Say that you want him to be able to choose any career he is interested in and reading will help him do well in all of them.
Here is a link to an excellent newspaper article… www.oecd.org/edu/ceri/Spotlight7-GenderEquality.pdf
And this report from the OECD is good reading….www.oecd.org/edu/ceri/Spotlight7-GenderEquality.pdf
Look particularly at ‘Getting boys into reading…’
5. Exploit interests!
If your son loves cars, buy him a book on cars for his next birthday or for Christmas. There are great books on most interests. Reading something is better than nothing. Comic books are not a waste of time. Ask your local library for suggestions.
6. Look for books that have been made into movies that are popular with young people. If one book by a particular author has been made into a successful movie that appeals to children, take your son to see it. Now there is a greater chance that he may be interested in reading that second or third book.
7. Holidays can be good opportunities to encourage reading. Tell your son you want him to help you research the city or country that you are going to visit. Ask him to find the top 10 places to visit and to find out why these are popular, how to get there, opening hours etc. Ask him to find whether there are discount card available in the country you are visiting. All of this will involve reading information on various internet sites.
8. Let your son know that you are particularly interested in his English results. Once again, explain that being able to communicate is fundamentally important to every career. Show particular interest in feedback from the English teacher. Let your son see that this is a subject that he must care about.
9. Read the books on your son’s English syllabus. Offer to read over the questions his teacher sets on these books. Discuss the issues covered in them. If the theme is racism or climate change, point out media articles on these issues.
10. Many books covered in English classes have been made into movies. Get a copy of these and watch them at home. By doing this you will be able to ask your son questions to see if he has understood the set books or make comments on aspects of the book, character development or writing that you particularly enjoyed.
Above all, never accept that your son just isn’t good at English or just doesn’t enjoy reading. Your son may never be an avid reader or someone who loves to spend the weekend with a great book, but he must be able to read as confidently as possible.
There is an amazing US website dedicated to encouraging boys to read…http://guysread.com/ Books can even be found in various age categories.
Do not accept that your son won’t be a reader simply because he is a boy. Sometimes, once a boy begins to read, he can learn to actually enjoy reading and will have this as a lifelong interest. Experienced teachers can read essays written by teenage boys and instantly know whether they are readers or not as this is reflected in the quality of their writing. So don’t give up.