What Really Motivates Boys to Read?

What Really Motivates Boys to Read?

Dan Gutman knows how to make me laugh.  He also knows how to make my 9 year student that happens to be a boy laugh as well.  Dan Gutman starts with a great title and from there it just keeps getting better.  One of my favorite series includes My Weird School Daze.  The book my student and I are reading is called Miss Mary is Scary.  On the cover of the book is a scared little boy and an upside down teacher hanging like a bat.  If you think that kids don’t judge a book by it’s cover then you are very wrong.  The cover needs to be just as engaging for boys as the title.  Otherwise, they may decide they don’t want to read it.


I was reading an article in the Reading Teacher today that inspired me to write about today’s topic.  The article title is “Effective Approaches to Motivate and Engage Reluctant Boys in Literacy.”  Since I work with a ton of these boys, I wanted to see if there was something that stuck out as new information.  I didn’t find new information, but it seemed to put a whole bunch of ideas together to make the topic complete.  The article touched on choice, men as readers, non-fiction books, purpose, and technology.




I am a huge advocate of choice when it comes to boys and reading.  One of my students that I work with just finished a book and it was time to choose a new one.  So, I took his interests into consideration and pulled a bunch of books that I thought he might enjoy.  He picked his book based on if it included pictures and how long it was.  That was what motivated him the most.  Guess what?  He is loving the book that he chose and wants to read more from the series.


All in all it doesn’t matter what a child’s motivation to read is if it motivates him/her to read.  If you can hook a reader on a series then you can hook a reader for life.  So far this student is hooked on the My Weird School Daze series and Diary of a Wimpy Kid.


Men as Readers


The article suggested that boys need to see men as readers.  This can be done in one of two ways.  Boys can either witness their fathers or other men reading or read books that are written by men.  In order for boys to see reading as a task that boys do, they need to have role models.  One place that you can go to see boys reading is http://www.storylineonline.net/.  This is a website where actors actually read engaging books.


Non-fiction books


Boys are naturally curious beings.  Their favorite question when they are young is why.  They want to know how everything works and they love taking things apart to figure that out.  But, what we have recently found out, is that boys love to read about how things work as well.  It is really important to surround our boys in non-fiction books and talk about information in those books with them.




The article talked about how boys really like to have an authentic purpose tied into their literacy.  This past summer I had a boy that had gotten a hermit crab as a gift.  This little boy wanted to know everything that there was to know about hermit crabs.  When his hermit crab started becoming slow and isolating himself, the little boy wanted to know if his hermit crab was sick or if it was molting.  We read about the molting process and learned that he was probably fine.


This little boy was super engaged to write his own book on how to take care of hermit crabs.  Although he hated the idea of having to go back and edit his work, he enjoyed learning all there was to know about hermit crabs, taking notes, and writing his own book.  He was so motivated that he wanted to get his book published and sell it on Amazon.




Technology engages boys.  This was one idea shared in the article.  This is no surprise since technology is everywhere.  This is one of the reasons that skyping and reading tutoring mix so well.  It is giving instruction to boys in their language.  It is more engaging.  Not all boys prefer this method, but the boys that I have worked with so far love it compared to other methods.




From this article we can see that boys enjoy choices.  They tend to like shorter passages than longer ones and would rather read non-fiction vs. fiction.  Boys want to read with a clear purpose in mind and if you can incorporate technology then you may have a winner.  Don’t forget that boys need to see other men reading, so involve dad in the process in any way that you can.