As an initiation into his freshman Honor's English class, my son had to read JANE EYRE by Charlotte Bronte over the summer. It came down to the last feverish three days of vacation, but he finished the book. After so many hours of reading his review of this long-standing classic-- "Ehhh, kind of boring."
My first thought about the assignment, (and don't get me wrong I love JANE EYRE), was that this was a "weeder" assignment--designed to see who was serious about taking the class. My second thought was that JANE EYRE is not much of a "boy" book--especially not much of a 14-year-old boy book.
I know, I know, there isn't supposed to be such a thing as a "girl" or a "boy" book, but I have three sons and one daughter who read, and I know (in general) different books are read by boys and different books are read by girls.
Research has shown that boys read less than girls and that boys are getting worse at reading and are less likely to be readers in the future. I'm lucky, my two older boys both enjoy reading thanks to books like the PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS series, (Rick Riordan), and the DIARY OF A WIMPY KID books, (Jeff Kinney). But I have one more son that I need to get into reading, and I remember a time when getting my sons to read wasn't such and easy thing to do.
It goes back to my oldest son and second grade when reading became an assignment and part of his grade. Then he wasn't much of a reader so our conversations went something like this:
ME: Son, you're supposed to read twenty minutes a day and fill out your reading chart.
Son: But I hate reading. It's so BORING.
ME: Learn to love it and it won't be a chore anymore. (This from a busy mom who was DYING for some time to read.)
It turned out the solution for getting my son to read wasn't begging, pleading, threatening, or even a grade, it boiled down to a competition and finding books he was interested in. First the competition: Time read equaled points and my son and his friend decided to see who could get the most points possible. He was determined to beat his friend, (I honestly don't remember who won), but after a few MAGIC TREE HOUSE books (Mary Pope Osborn), and some non-fiction, dinosaurs, tigers, and general gross-out books, he was hooked.
So my first piece of advice for getting a boy to read...
Look for something he's into
Find something that he likes and then look for a book about it. For my nine-year-old it's reptiles, snakes, and bugs. For my 14-year-old it's sport or adventure books like the TAKE IT TO THE EXTREME series (Pam Withers). My 6-year-old likes books with familiar characters like SPONGEBOB, (yes you can find SPONGEBOB books and it's okay to let your kids read them).
Which leads me to,
Don't judge a book...
When he was in a big video game phase my oldest read THE FALL OF REACH (Eric Nylund), and other books based on the HALO video game. I was a little skeptical, I mean, a book based on a video game? Then I read THE FALL OF REACH. It was a well-written and complex book. There were even technical pieces I had to have my son explain to me.
And my final advice...
Be interested in what your son is reading
You know I'm a big advocate of reading with your kids, but I want to say it again. READ WHAT YOUR KIDS READ. Reading with, too, and alongside your kids read gives you a chance for real conversation, whether it's about "issues," creepy-crawly things, or even their favorite cartoon character. It's especially important for boys. The world and their friends may not give them kudos for reading, so you have to. Listen, discuss, let them be the expert for a while, even if it means a listening to a twenty minute plot synopsis for a ten page book, (Six-year-olds have a hard time getting to the point,) or hearing (in disgusting detail) how a spider liquifies the insides of its prey.
It might not be easy. Don't expect your son to digest (spider-like) JANE EYRE or even LORD OF THE FLIES (pun intended) immediately. (And he may not ever enjoy those kind of books.) But a love of books and a love of reading is a life-long joy for girls and boys, (not to mention how much reading will help them child in school).
JANE EYRE may not have been my son's cup of tea, and most of the time he would still rather play video games then read about them, but his reading has paid off--(bragging time)--he scored 100% on two portions of our state's reading evaluation.
Getting your boys to read is worth it. Few things give me greater pleasure than watching my kids get into a book, especially as I think back to the "reluctant reader" of second grade.
For more information and advice on getting boys to read check out this website, guysread.com.