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
Andrea N Carr
Sunday 4th of October 2015
My son has attention deficit and though it is unlikely, he was reading on a 17th grade level in the fourth grade. His comprehension was very developed. I listened to him complain of boredom with reading and answered his questions. He asked, why do I always want to read the book and not watch the movie. I said "I don't have to wonder what the characters are thinking." Less questions in the end or more understanding about the story, I explained.
I started buying him comic books and he loved them. That was only, a start far as I was concerned. I took him to see the movie "Jurassic Park" then, he is thirty years old now. I had read the book, why I took him. He decided, he wanted to compare the two and read the book also. My son was hooked on reading after that and he agreed, the book is better than the movie. He wanted to read everything I read, which wasn't my intention.
I empowered him by letting him know, if he picked a book he didn't like he didn't have to read it. That helped tremendously. Good luck!
Tuesday 6th of October 2015
Thank you for sharing your story Andrea. Empowering boys in reading is so important. I think you are so right that if you pick up a book and you don't like it you shouldn't have to read it. There are far too many good books to force specific titles on a child. It sounds like your son had a lot of support and was a very advanced reader.
Wednesday 26th of August 2015
Hi Sheila , I do really like this suggestions about the pressure for reading , Im from Mexico and my son were born and raised over there until he was almost 5 so he speak spanish as a first language and now we are struggling with the reading cause he still has problems in reading he reads to me books that he get out from the library but still sometimes he does not want to read it he is trying to sound out some words but sometimes he does not catch the word and I read it to him so my question is it is ok that instead of make him try to sound out it the word I read it to him? and which metod do you recommend for learning vocabulary or playful method to learn words? Thank you so much Karla V.
Thursday 27th of August 2015
Hi Karla, Thank you for your nice comment. You don't say if you are homeschooling him or if he is in school. Feel free to reply with that information if you like. If you are homeschooling and he doesn't "need" to learn the words in order to move forward with a school program I would continue doing exactly what you are doing. Let him pick out books he might enjoy, read to him and with him and make reading an enjoyable part of your lives.
As far as helping a child with the words goes, this is what I did. If my son was reading and didn't know a word and asked me what it was I answered him. I didn't make him struggle to figure it out. I didn't force him to sound it out. I just told him what the word was.
If he missed a word or said it wrong I would decide if I wanted to say something to him or not. Sometimes I would wait and he would say "oh, that isn't right." Sometimes I knew he knew it but just said it wrong. In that case I just let it go. If it happened a few times with the same word I would tell him how to say it.
We have a few playful methods for learning sight words here on Brain Power Boy. See if he likes any of these. I wouldn't force these games on any boy but if he enjoys playing them they are a fun way to learn. Action Sight Word Games for Boys Who Have to Move! Sight Word Games Boys Will Go For Free Printable Sight Word Game
I also want to mention that it is wonderful that he knows two languages. There are excellent children's books in both Spanish and English for him to enjoy.
Wednesday 5th of August 2015
My son hates to read. Just hates it. I have done some of things you suggested. He pick out books he likes but never reads them. I have done family time reading. Where we all sit down and read what we want. ( dad,sister,son,and me) but no good. I will try the other parts you suggested and see if that works for him. It brakes my heart when I see him cry cause he doesn't want to read.
Friday 7th of August 2015
Hi Melissa, Thank you for taking the time to comment. I am so sorry to hear that your son is having difficulty with reading. That is so hard - for both of you. Have you ruled out any reading issues that might be related to dyslexia or perhaps needing glasses etc.? If so, do try some of the other things I suggested. If you are still struggling feel free to contact me and I will try to help you narrow things down a bit more.
Jennifer @ The Jenny Evolution
Thursday 30th of July 2015
I would agree with all of this... however, much of this flies out the window once you realize they are facing dyslexia. My son is severely dyslexic and no amount of waiting or being patient was going to help him. It was only until I started pushing the school, pushing tutoring, pushing additional reading at home that he started to make any type of progress in reading. We were able to catch him up from a beginner 1st grade level to ending at the minimum level for completing 2nd grade all in one year.
He still doesn't love reading.... but he has always adored being read to and listening to audio books and that hasn't changed one bit.
Sometimes when kids tell you they hate reading, they're telling you there's a MUCH bigger problem going on.
Friday 31st of July 2015
Hi Jennifer, I said right at the beginning of the article "first and foremost find out if there is a reading issue" and to see if dyslexia is involved. I know people with dyslexia and they needed help to learn to read in a way that worked best for them. I know some of the ideas presented work for children with reading issues because I have seen them work. Taking the pressure off can do wonders. With a child in school, waiting isn't going to be an option because schools are not set up to wait until kids are ready to read. I'm glad you found out what works best for your son and that you found ways for him to enjoy stories. Thanks for sharing your story.
Thursday 30th of July 2015
Brilliant post! A million thank yous! I work in a library and I have seen well meaning parents putting terrible pressure on their kids to read. I understand their concern, but I see the harm it does. I am pinning this to my blog's reading board and posting it on the library Facebook page. Thank you again.
Friday 31st of July 2015
Thank you so much Sharon. It means a lot to me to receive your comment. I have seen this type of thing happen so many times at the library. You might also enjoy Why you need to stop limiting boys' reading choices. I really appreciate the pin and FB share!