Boys and Reading--some rambling thoughts inspired by a great article

Via Jen Robinson's Book Page, I found this very, very interesting article from Reading Rockets --Boys and Books, by Jane McFann (2004). Here's the introduction:
The statistics are consistent: Young male readers lag behind their female counterparts in literacy skills. This article looks at the social, psychological, and developmental reasons why, and suggests solutions — including the need for more men to become role models for reading.

I think there are many more books available that have appeal to boys (see, for instance, Guys Read) than there were in my youth way back in the 70s (I could be wrong about this, since I myself was busily reading Enid Blyton ad nauseam at the time and not much else).

But it is hard, sometimes, for me to put the books my boys want into their outstretched and eager hands. It is much easier to buy books that appeal to me, than books that really truly don't. This is one reason I like libraries so much, because I let them check out anything their little hearts desire. Ditto those occasions when they help me with book sorting for the library used book sales. Well I remember the fight they had over the organic chemistry textbook two years ago--one wanted it so that I could teach him chemistry (ha ha ha), the other wanted it because it was red. The point of this, though, is that I think you can raise a child to love books even before they love the process of reading.

However, there are limits. When he was two, older son desperately wanted me to buy him an SAT practice book at a used book store (mainly, I think, because he wanted to color in all the circles). I wasn't about to spend $10 on it, and the ensuing emotional distress wasn't pretty. I did, however, buy him a really ghastly book about textiles a few months later. It was only $1, it made him happy, and it kept us from being persona non grata at that book store (unlike the one above), but still. It is harder when I take them to a real book store, where I am expected to spend real money.

What books have you bought for your own children that you can't stand, or read over and over to them despite well-concealed boredom or revulsion simply to encourage their love of books?

ps: One outstanding father in regard to reading to his son is Calvin's dad (from Calvin and Hobbs), who apparently has had to read "Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kabblooie" every night for years. Someone has actually had the nerve to write the book. I shall not dignify it with a link.


  1. Leo loved Quarterback Power, a collection of short biographies of famous quarterbacks including his favorite, Tom Brady. He was thrilled when he could read it himself. So was I!

  2. Yep, that's just the sort of book I would never walk into a bookstore and buy...thanks for the recommendation!

  3. Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series...No, don't get me wrong, the books are fantastic. The problem is that as soon as I had read a chapter and called it a day, Alec grabbed the book from me and read ahead. The next night, he would then demand I read from where he left off, so that I had no idea what had happened in the interim, who these new characters were, etc. The upshot is that the entire series has been utterly spoiled for me. Oh, the trials of parenthood.

  4. Have you visited GuysLitWire? It's quite cool, and I'm glad to be a part of it.

    As per which books one doesn't like but gets for and reads to one's children question: I haven't any offspring, but as a bookseller, I have had to give folks books they asked for that I didn't particularly like, but if they ask for something specific, I always give them that book/those books -- then tack on a few more that I loved that are similar!

  5. Yep, GuysLitWire is a neat site, and I will definatly be sending them that way when they are older!


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