Reading is something I’m passionate about and before I even became a mother I knew that was something I wanted to share with my kids. My oldest three children are boys though and that comes with a few challenges. Nationally, boys consistently test lower than girls on reading assessments. The learning gap widens as boys move into middle and high school.
As the mother of boys, this makes me sad. I can see a few reasons for it but they can all be overcome.
Boys are often more active then girls so sitting down and reading isn’t always their first choice. My two oldest boys are relatively calm but my little 6 year old can’t sit still to save his life. It makes learning to read and finding time to read a bit more challenging but not impossible.
Reading is often considered feminine. This is silly to me but I’ve run into this even with my husband. He was never encouraged to read as a child and now as an adult he’s learning to enjoy it. While some boys naturally love reading, others are more drawn to physical activities or are turned off because they can’t find anything they enjoy. . . which brings us to the next point.
There are fewer great books geared towards boys. Fortunately this has started to change in the last ten years or so. Finding a book that speaks to a little boy’s interests is key. I’ve watched my oldest son dive into a book series for days at a time once he finds something that he loves and seeing that makes my heart happy.
Good readers turn into good writers and in today’s digital society writing skills are essential. So how do you get your boys excited about reading?
These books are a sure way to help your boys discover how truly awesome reading can be.
Great Books for Boys
Magic Treehouse Series – This series is what I start all my boys on as new readers and it’s a treasure! With over 50 books and counting this series will keep your son busy for a while. The Magic Tree House tells the story of Jack and Annie, two kids who discover a magical tree house filled with books in the woods near their house. The tree house takes them into the worlds that they see in the books and in the process teaches kids all about some important historical times and events. Each book has a non-fiction companion research guide that provides kids with some great facts from the time period that was covered in the fictional book.
My kids have loved this series so much that I have a hard time getting them to move onto anything else!
Harry Potter – Few things trump Harry Potter for elementary aged boys. You’ve got a fantastically awkward hero who manage to do some amazing things and all kinds of crazy magic. What’s not to love? My oldest son got sucked into Harry Potter and could think of little else for several months until he finished the series.
Akimbo and the Elephant – Written by best selling author Alexander McCall Smith who is known for his #1 Ladies Detective Agency series, Akimbo and the Elephants is the first of several books geared towards kids.
Akimbo is a ten year old boy who lives on a game preserve in Africa. His adventures will fascinate little boys and the writing in this series is fantastic. I think I enjoyed these books as much as my boys did and it was a wonderful glimpse into another culture.
This was an easy read even for my newest readers and my kids loved the way the books transported them to another place and allowed them a glimpse of life in Africa.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians – My almost 11 year old is currently obsessed with this series. Thanks to these books he’s now an expert on Greek mythology so I love all the great facts he’s picked up along the way. This series tells the story of Percy Jackson, a young boy who discovers that his father is a Greek god . . . and not just any Greek god but the great Poseidon himself.
Percy has to learn to become a hero and has some amazing adventures along the way as he discovers who he is and how much strength of character he really has. I’ll admit that I got sucked into this series just as much as my son did and thoroughly enjoyed it!
The 39 Clues - We’re just beginning this series but I’ve been told it’s like The Magic Tree House for older kids. Each book in the series is written by a different author which is a fun twist. My son was hooked because the first book was written by Rick Riordan, author of his beloved Percy Jackson Series. 39 Clues follows the adventures of Dan and Amy as they travel the world on a mysterious treasure hunt.
I’m planning on diving into this one with my oldest son but so far he can’t pull himself away from this series long enough to let me borrow it. Good thing he’s reading it fast. My 8 year old is trying to snatch it away from him too!
Childhood of Famous Americans – I’m always looking for ways to incorporate my kids’ interests into the things that we read. This series is a fantastic way to learn more about some of the most interesting people in our country’s history and they do it in such an engaging way that boys love them! I love that this series introduces kids to a new genre. Biographies can be so interesting but they aren’t usually the first thing that kids reach for.
My oldest son’s favorite in this series is the biography of Walt Disney while my 8 year old loves the book about Neil Armstrong.
The Jungle Book – Thanks to Disney, most kids are already familiar with the story of Mowgli. This book requires higher reading skills then some of the others on our list but it can be done. My son read this at 8 and even though it took him a while to get through it, he loved it. Knowing the basics of the story before hand really helped his reading comprehension and there’s nothing like exposing kids to the classics as early as you can.
If the reading level is too hard for your son, you can always enjoy reading it aloud together. That’s still a great experience and it does kids good (even older ones) to have you read to them sometimes too. As an added bonus, this is free on the Kindle.
Holes – This book is a favorite among boys and gives you a great opportunity for follow up with the popular movie. Winner of the Newbery Medal and the National Book Award, this book is well written and really engaged young boys.
It tells the story of Stanley Yelnats, a kid who is unjustly sent to a boys’ detention center, Camp Green Lake, where the warden makes the boys “build character” by spending all day, every day, digging holes five feet wide and five feet deep. It doesn’t take long for Stanley to realize there’s more than character improvement going on at Camp Green Lake: the warden is looking for something.
Ages 10 and up
The Hobbit – Long before the (rather disappointing) movie came out, my boys and I read The Hobbit aloud together. It’s a dense book so we took it slowly. It probably took us 6 months to finish it but my kids loved it.
I made a point to stop reading as we moved into the exciting points so they couldn’t wait to read again. The slow reading pattern really helped them to remember the story and focus on the quality of the writing. To this day they can tell you every little detail they remember from The Hobbit and it did a great job of getting them excited about reading.
What books do your boys love? Do you have any tricks for helping get boys excited about reading?