I hear it a lot. “My boy hates reading. I get him a lot of books but he doesn’t like any of them.” Well, that doesn’t mean he hates to read. But let’s take a look at reading and what we can do to help boys who say they hate it.
I will share exactly what to do if your boy hates reading and how to fix it.
Boys who say they hate reading are likely under a lot of pressure to read. The pressure can come from school and/or from home.
Boys who say they hate reading are usually not being listened to. You need to get to the bottom of what they mean by that statement. Do they mean they hate reading the books that they don’t like? I had that problem in school. I hated having someone tell me what to read.
Are you making the assumption that he hates reading because he is not reading what you think he should be reading? Be honest here.
We need to see what the issues are before we can fix them. Since reading is very important in a boy’s learning life we need to get to the bottom of this.
We are going to focus on reading at home and what we can do to help boys. If you keep doing what you have always done, you are going to get the same results. Be willing to take a new approach.
I want you to know that you are not alone. The U.S. Department of Education reading tests for the last 30 years show boys scoring worse than girls in every age group, every year. (Guys Read) There are a lot of boys who hate reading and many who struggle with it. This is awful news and something we need to work hard to change.
First and foremost find out if there is a reading issue. Does he need glasses? Is dyslexia involved? Rule out other possible reading problems. This list is not for boys who are having those type of problems, although everything on it will likely help!
If your boy says that he hates reading, or you think that he hates reading we need to take action now. Follow the suggestions on this list and be very open to making some changes.
What to do if your boy hates reading:
1. Stop saying things like “he hates reading”
I understand this tough to do but hear me out.
If you could, right now, today, stop and never say it again what would that do?
If you didn’t say it in front of him, to other people or even to yourself. If you didn’t say “he isn’t a reader,” “he stinks at reading,” “he can’t read very well,” “he doesn’t read like his sister/brother/cousin/friend does.” Would that help to change the narrative?
It would help a lot because many times, with all of us, but especially with boys, they hear something over and over and then they start to think that and believe it.
Pretty soon he will be saying, “I’m not a good reader” or “I hate reading. We don’t want that, so just stop – please. It isn’t helpful and most of the time these things that are being said are not accurate either.
I have had a mom, with her son standing right next to her, tell me “he hates reading.” Well, nothing like setting the stage for that to be true. If your boy is continually hearing you saying that he hates reading or that he is a poor reader it is not going to help his confidence.
2. Listen to him
If he says he hates reading, ask what he means by that.
Gently ask him to explain what he doesn’t like about it. Listen, but don’t discount whatever is said. You also don’t need to do more than just taking the time to hear what he has to say.
Remember listening is not making suggestions or saying “of course you like reading,” it is being quiet and really hearing him.
Listening will give you a very good idea of the direction you need to go next.
3. Stop pressuring him to read
Stop testing him to see if he knows a word or knows what something says. Stop pushing him to read this book or that book.
No one likes to be put on the spot and when you are of the mindset that you hate something, anything done to force you to do that something isn’t conducive to helping you enjoy it.
Offer to read to him whenever he would like you to. Don’t force him to do the reading.
4. Leave him alone
I know you are worried.
I know you want to fix it.
I know this is a tough one. Hear me out. Forcing isn’t going to work. I briefly explained why above.
You need to leave him alone and let him have some time away from reading. You need to let it go for a while. Let the stress that this is resulting from this go. Try to start over so to speak.
Give him some space. This seriously works wonders.
5. Observe His Reading Habits
Watch. Observe. When is he doing a bit of reading?
Believe me, he is still reading–maybe not books–but perhaps on the computer or the back of the cereal box.
Try to see when he is actually reading and what he is drawn to. Don’t make any comments, just observe. This will help you with step #9.
6. Let him read what he wants to read
Yes, I know I am going to catch it from some educators for saying that but . . . I believe it is the best way.
Follow his lead on what type of reading is important to him. Let him choose his own reading materials.
Tell him that he is now free to choose to read whatever he wants to read. He doesn’t have to read chapter books to have it count as reading! Note: I understand that some families have reading guidelines but if they are too restrictive this won’t work well.
Tell him that if there is something he would like to read he should simply let you know and you will get it for him.
7. Go to a library or bookstore weekly
Go to the library or a bookstore on a regular basis. I suggest trying to get there at least once each week, preferably on the same day. Make it part of a routine and go in a totally no pressure way.
Do not require that he check anything out or purchase anything. Do not show him books “he might like.”
Just go and choose some books for yourself and for your family and ask if he would like anything. Period. Ask once. No pressure – remember!
8. Bring a lot of different types of reading materials into his life
While at the library choose some books, magazines, and books-on-cd or Playaway, on topics that he is interested in.
Bring a lot of different things home and just leave them laying about. If you take your whole selection back each time without him touching a single one – so be it.
Remember to give him choices, but no pressure, no prodding, no “are you sure you don’t want to read this one?” Also don’t feel bad if he doesn’t want any of the items you offer. Just keep at it.
9. Follow his passions
If he is into birds grab a bunch of bird books and Birds and Blooms magazine. If he is into Minecraft find books on that. If he loves LEGO order a few LEGO books and have them shipped – everyone loves getting packages!
In step number 5 I suggested that you observe him to see what he is actually reading. Now is the time to take that information and go to work. Whatever he was reading a bit of you want to provide more of the same. Don’t push – just make it available in your home.
Print out an article from one of his favorite websites, bookmark a spot in a book that talks about a game he likes, circle something in a magazine (including a picture with a small caption) that he might like.
Put print that matches the things that he really likes directly in his path .
10. Remember not all reading takes place by reading books
Don’t discount other reading.
So often I hear boy moms say that their boy hates to read and he is reading!
He is reading manuals, he is reading instructions for video games, he is looking things up on the Internet, or treading comics in the newspaper.
If you have already said some negative things about his reading, apologize and mention casually that you noticed that he does seem to enjoy reading, just not the type of reading you were thinking about.
It all counts my friends. Value it. Reading is reading. And sometimes, as it says in the next step it just takes time.
11. Give it time
Doing these things will create an environment that will help your boy to realize that he may not really hate reading after all.
You play a huge role in this moms and dads. Sorry to say it but you can make (or break) your boy’s love of reading.
If you follow these steps one-by-one you will see results but you need to be patient.
You need to actually follow through with no pressure and give it time to work. If you start to push, you might have to start at the beginning again.
Think about it this way. It is likely that he didn’t come to hate reading overnight. Once someone thinks they hate something it is very hard to get them to move away from that thought.
Moving your boy from hating reading to loving to read is not going to happen overnight either. You need to be patient and know that it can be done!
12. Takeaway: You Can Do This!
If you follow the advice here and
- be open to making changes
- watch what you say
- listen to him
- don’t pressure him
- leave him alone
- observe and watch him read
- give him free reading choices
- go to places with books on a regular basis
- strew a variety of reading materials around
- provide print materials that match his passions
- value reading for reading no matter where or how it occurs
- are patient and give it time
you will go a long way toward instilling a love a reading in his life.
If you have any questions about helping your boy move past “I hate reading” feel free to leave a comment or contact me and I will help.
You can take a look at our best books for boys lists to find books that appeal to boys. We have a lot of lists on a variety of topics available.
You may also enjoy 10 Reasons Not to Limit Your Boy’s Reading Choices