Saturday, June 7, 2014

How to Motivate Teen Boys to Read

With Resources to Help Parents & Teachers
(Updated December 2014)
It's no secret that not all children like to read. However, when you add teen boys to the mix, reading can often be at the bottom of the list of "fun things to do" (or NOT on the list at all!), especially when other activities compete for their attention.

We are well into the throes of summer now that June has arrived, a particularly good time to spend a few hours reading for pleasure under a cool, shade tree in the backyard. However, how many teen boys do you know who would rather read indoors or out in the middle of the summer than do something else? Sadly, you are not alone if you do not know even one such reader. So, what is it that keeps boys from wanting to read today?

1. So Many Activities!

Most teenage boys are involved in many activities that can keep them more than a little busy (and their parents with them!) Their attention is drawn to organized sports, scouting, social activities and more. Of course, we can't forget their schoolwork, either. So, their time is indeed spoken for throughout each week and on weekends, too.

To be honest, there are some parents who over-book their children's free time, enrolling them in structured programs every night of the week AND throughout the weekend, too. There is sometimes a tendency to over-structure a teen's leisure time to prevent idleness and boredom. This can be especially true during the summer months when mothers and fathers are at work. There are many situations where parents literally "camp" their teens to the extreme, using such activities as supervision for their children during the summer vacation period---not always a good idea! In addition, these arrangements can offer very little time to read for pleasure!

2. Reading = Homework (NOT Fun!)

Boys often connect reading with assignments and homework. It is difficult for some boys, especially those who prefer physical activity and movement, to even think about sitting and reading for an extended period or as something to be enjoyed. Many teen boys only read in school. When the school day ends, so does their reading, and the after-school pastime of choice is very often the TV or a favorite video game.

3. Unworthy Selections

Many book titles for teens explore topics more interesting to girls than to boys. Teen romances are prevalent, but these are the last thing that would be interesting to boys. Boys need books about characters and topics that truly appeal to them.

4. "Readers Are Dorks & Nerds!"

It's really a shame, but in our culture, boys very often perceive reading as "nerdy" or something only a "brain-iac" would do. Reading is not usually seen as a "macho" or manly way to spend one's leisure time, particularly if you are a teenage boy.

5. Some Are Actually Struggling Readers

This will not be good news to many parents, but it is a fact that many children cannot read or struggle significantly to read. It is a sad statistic that 1 in 5 school-aged children (20% of those from ages 5 to 18) in the U.S. is challenged with a language-based reading difference. Too many of these children are boys--even teen boys who struggle to focus, track, comprehend and retain what is read.

Solutions to MOTIVATE Your Teen Boy

So what is a parent to do to encourage a teen son to read, particularly during the summer months to help prevent the loss of learning and developed reading skills?

1. Plan for Good Reading Time

As a parent or grandparent, refrain from over-structuring your teen's schedule. Even though your teen son or grandson may want to participate in back-to-back activities each week, arrange or allow for some genuine "down" time where he can relax, recharge and re-create himself in some quiet or in a peaceful corner. These are times that will be more conducive for him to read for pleasure or by choice.

2. Reading CAN Be FUN!

A trip to the local lending library with your teen son is a great activity, whether it is over the summer or during the school year. However, during the time offered by the summer break, he might actually enjoy leisurely searching and discovering books AND magazines that interest him. Yes, magazines serve up smaller "bites" of reading that can be more approachable and more readily "digested" by a teen boy. Consider publications such as Popular Mechanics, Sports Illustrated for Kids, ESPN, Teen Ink or others that might appeal to your son's interests. If you have a truly reluctant reader, you might suggest an age-appropriate graphic novel or even a comic book of interest to encourage him to read.

3. Teen Boys' Favorite Topics & Selections

Speaking of interests, it is important to keep in mind that the genres or types of books that parents like may not appeal to their teen sons. In fact, many parents and even some teachers often think that since they themselves enjoy fictional or novels, their teen children and students automatically like fiction. This is actually not the case. As a matter of fact, there are many teen boys who much prefer non-fictional or informational reading than fiction.

So, if you have a reluctant teen reader, it might be a very good idea to help introduce him to non-fiction in an area of his interest. Many teen boys enjoy reading about nanotechnology, computer software being developed, programming or coding, and these are just topics in the realm of technology. If you have an young athlete, help him locate biographies about sports figures such as Yogi Berra (Did you know this baseball hero was an active participate in the D-Day operations of 1944?), Stan Musial, Lynn Swann, Jesse Owens or another interesting athlete in a favorite sport.

4. A Comfortable, Favorite Place to Read

Although traditionally teen boys may think that reading is "dorky" of less than fun, provide your son with a quiet and comfortable are of your home when he might retreat, rest and read in peace---away from the TV or the seemingly ever-present video games. He will see this spot as a SAFE area where no one can joke, jest or make fun of the reading he would like to do. Provide comfortable seating that might also include a desk and cushioned chair. Appropriate lighting will also be important. This might be provided by a window with window coverings that are adjustable for heat and light or lamps with 3-way bulbs.

5. Provide Real Help for What Could Be a Struggling Reader

Always keep in mind that a reluctant or resistant reader may be a struggling reader. How will you know for certain? By the time a boy is in his teen years and not interested in reading at all, it is important to consider professional evaluation. Yes, it is very possible that his school has not noticed nor addressed a serious reading challenge that he has faced, and he may not be able to articulate what his reading experience is really like. The summer is an excellent time for such an evaluation.

First, you might consider scheduling a visit for your child to to see his pediatrician to rule out any physical issues causing an unknown reading challenge. Then, the next medical professional to visit should be a developmental optometrist (not a regular ophthalmologist, optometrist or optician). This particular specialist can evaluate for vision-related and many language-based learning differences (i.e. dyslexia, convergence insufficiency, etc.) Not all schools can (in fact most schools cannot) evaluate for some of these learning issues. Ask your child's pediatrician for such a referral or visit the website of the College of Optometrists and Vision Development at to locate such a medical professional in your area.

There may be a very good reason why your teen son is a reluctant reader. Find out over this summer vacation time, and he will be much better prepared for the coming school year!

Reading Resources for Teen Boys

A web-based literacy program for boys founded by author and First National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature Jon Scieszka. Our mission is to help boys become self-motivated, lifelong readers.
Our mission is to transform boys into lifelong readers. We are an organization of parents, educators, librarians, mentors, authors, and booksellers.

7 Great Books for Reluctant Readers in Middle School---by Elizabeth Babbin &
Getting middle-schoolers to read can be difficult unless you find titles they can relate to as they struggle to sort out who they really are. These books have the power to engage reluctant readers and keep them interested.

Top 12 Young Adult Books for Reluctant Readers---by Jessica Piper (from

Book lists of all types of fiction books for teens (for both boys and girls)

College of Optometrists and Vision Development
Locate a developmental optometrist in your area with the "Locate a Doctor" tool on this website. This medical professional can test, evaluate, diagnose and provide various treatment options for vision-related and some language-based reading challenges.


Motivating Teenage Boys to Read---by Kristen Bevilacqua

Teenagers and Reading---from RIF (Reading Is Fundamental)

For more information on customizable reading tools for better focus & improved attention, please visit: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

Image courtesy of:
Brennan Innovators, LLC at


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    Brennan Innovators, LLC