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Expert Q&A

How Do You Get a 12-Year-Old Boy to Read?

I have a 12-year-old son who hates to read much himself, but loves to be read to. He will read comics on his own, but that’s about all. What do you suggest to get him to read more?

It can be tough to get a 12-year-old boy to pick up a book beyond school. I know from both personal and professional experience! My son liked (and still likes) stories, but there was a time when he acted like books were strange and hateful objects. So, when he was not picking up books to read with his eyes, I started slipping audiobooks in during any car trip. Coraline(opens in a new window) (HarperAudio, unabridged) was one of the books that hooked him. We actually wound up sitting in the car until my son was ready to turn off this deliciously taut tale. He started looking to see what audios I had. And we went through them!

The slightly offbeat Casson family in Hillary MacKay’s books began for my son with Indigo’s Star(opens in a new window) (Listening Library, unabridged). It was soon followed by Susan Cooper’s classic fantasy series set in Great Britain; The Dark Is Rising series(opens in a new window) (all Listening Library, unabridged). It wasn’t too hard to get him back into books then; he’d remembered the tug of stories well told.

Author and first National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Jon Scieszka, actually started a website called in a new window). Scieszka is a man on a mission to get boys reading and to recognize that boys have different interests. And to do so, both authors and books that run a gamut of interests are recommended on this site. Some of them are books that I remember my son laughing out loud reading when reading — and it didn’t matter if the books were too easy for him to read; they got him reading. Books like How to Be A Perfect Person in Just Three Days(opens in a new window) by Stephen Mane and of course the madcap adventures of the Time Warp Trio(opens in a new window) series by the master of silliness, Jon Scieszka. And he gobbled up graphic novels (like the Bone(opens in a new window) series by Jeff Smith) and still does.

By the way, GuysRead cites research which reminds me of Michael Gurian’s book for parents and teachers, Minds of Boys: Saving Our Sons from Falling Behind in School and Life(opens in a new window). It’s sure an interesting look at what research suggests about how boys learn.

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