National Louis University Professor Shares 11 Tips to Encourage Boys to Read

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Girls continue to outpace boys in reading; NLU literacy expert offers suggestions to strengthen boys’ desire to read

Research indicates that the gender gap in reading, as boys struggle with literacy compared to girls, is getting worse. In fact, 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. On a brighter note, research also suggests that boys will read more if they are given reading material that interests them. With summer vacation around the corner, Sophie Degener, Ed.D., National Louis University associate professor of Reading & Language and director of NLU’s Reading Program, has tips to boost boys’ interests in reading.

While there is not a clear answer about the cause of the reading gender disparity, Degener said that there are a few theories discussed among literary experts.

“Often boys are asked to read books that don’t appeal to them, which reduces their motivation to read. Reading about sports, cars, video games, building things, etc. all counts as legitimate sources of reading material,” said Degener. “Also, some boys don’t have many positive male role models to show reading as a masculine activity. As parents and teachers, it’s important to urge boys to read texts on topics that interest them and to be strong role models for reading.”

Another theory about boys’ reading struggle is that since boys are biologically slower to develop than girls, this slower development is carried to reading and writing skills as well. Also, typically reading isn’t the action-oriented, competitive activity that many boys enjoy.

With this in mind, Degener shares some ideas that address parents’ questions about “how to encourage my son to read.”

1. Give boys control of what they read. Parents often decide what their kids eat for breakfast, when they go to bed and what they do in between. Independent reading is a great way to give boys some choice and control -- even if the books are above or below their reading level. A boy’s general interest and/or background knowledge about the subject will help move him to understand the book.
2. Take a field trip and visit the library. Make it a fun outing to explore the library and all it has to offer. Try to make reading fun and an opportunity to spend quality time together.
3. Expand the idea of reading to include comic books, graphic novels, magazines and digital content as well. It’s all reading! Specifically, subscribe to a magazine geared to boys, such as Boys’ Life, National Geographic Kids, Highlights or Ranger Rick. When it arrives in the mail, announce to the whole family that (son’s name) has gotten something in the mail. That’s a rare experience for kids, and makes them feel important.
4. Read aloud with boys, no matter the age. Often reading a book together will spur further interest in a book genre, author or topic.
5. Encourage boys’ books that expand their expertise on a subject that they enjoy (e.g. soccer, fishing, cooking, etc.).
6. Suggest books that are available in a series. After they read one book that they enjoy, the option of reading other books in the same series might be desirable. They can jump into the plot without having to get to know the main characters or settings.

There are some websites that encourage boys to read, and provide specific book recommendations by topic. More tips can be found on

About National Louis University
Founded in 1886, National Louis is a nonprofit, non-denominational University offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in fields of education, management, human services, counseling, public policy, and others concerned with human and community development. From its inception, National Louis has provided educational access to adult, immigrant and minority populations – a mission it sustains today. National Louis is well-known for an exceptional history in teacher preparation, and continues t​o ​be a leader in educating future teachers and community leaders to succeed in urban environments. For more information, visit

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Kellie Kennedy
The Harbinger Group
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