Boys and Reading


Study after study has found that boys lag behind in literacy achievement. Boys report reading less and score lower on reading tests, according to a 2009 study.

Many books that appeal to boys tend to be frowned upon in traditional classrooms.  “With some notable exceptions, boys’ preferred reading material rarely makes it to the Caldecott or Newbery lists so beloved of librarians,”  says Robin Boltz in 2007, who gives the example of “R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps (and)… Captain Underpants” which were “banned by many school libraries.”

Although increasingly popular, comics or graphic novels are also strongly preferred by boys, though sometimes treated as lesser in schools.  But comics, which boys report reading more often than girls, can be a good “light reading” as a first step toward more serious or academic text, according to Stephen Krashen in 2005.

In Educating Latino Boys, David Campos recommends integrating technology whenever possible.  Reading seems less stigmatized as “something girls do” when technology levels the playing field. Blogs, digital journals as response to text, digital magazines or ebooks are also highly engaging for boys.  In 2011, Stephen Krashen suggests that “Free Voluntary Web Surfing” may also help literacy.  These less-traditional approaches to reading may help reluctant boys feel like reading is “cool.”

To up the “cool” factor, consider a little healthy competition.  Why not have teams of students log self-selected reading hours to see which teams can reach their goal first?

For all students, but for boys in particular, reading for a clear, real-life purpose can be beneficial.  Students who love working on cars with family may love reading about cars; gamers make prefer to read up on their favorite Minecraft blogs to plan strategies and share with friends.

Never adopt an overly-generalized approach to connecting students and books.  Just look out for the girls and boys (who may not ask for books as readily as the girls) in your classroom to make sure everyone is reading what they love.


Published by

Claire Walter

I am an ESL teacher and I promote differentiated, compassionate instruction and assessment for English Language Learners.

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