Helping Underachieving Boys Read Well and Often (page 3)

By — Educational Resource Information Center (U.S. Department of Education)
Updated on Dec 16, 2008

Activities for Parents

Schools can help parents promote their children's reading by communicating that it is important to read to sons (every day, if possible), that they do not have to be well educated to do so effectively, and that schools cannot be solely responsible for their children's education. Schools can direct parents to free sources of reading materials (such as the school itself, libraries, and community organizations) and manage book swaps. They can also encourage parents to allow their children time for reading and provide an inviting place for it. Parents can also be helped to integrate reading with their children naturally into their schedules (Coley, 2002; McCarthy et al., 2001; North Carolina, 1999; Tanksley, 1995).

Parents can model reading, sharing what they have learned, recommending good books, and mentioning what they want to learn from reading in the future. Parents and sons can read together, selecting increasingly difficult materials to help boys improve their skills and promoting positive interactions as they predict what will happen in a story and then discuss what did happen and why. Parents and sons can look up information together both to show the value of reading and to help boys develop problem-solving skills. Parents can take books along on long trips or to places where waiting is anticipated to help boys appreciate the value of reading as recreation. Finally, parents can maintain a reading log with their sons that indicates what, when, and how much the boys are reading. The log keeps parents informed, supports their sons' efforts, and encourages reading together (Calkins, 1996; McCarthy et al., 2001; North Carolina, 1999; Tanksley, 1995).


Many enticements compete for children's time, television most especially. For boys, the desire to be physically active can further impede their interest in reading. Therefore it is necessary to help boys select and use reading materials that are as entertaining as television, tap into their special interests and answer their unique questions about the world, and provide information that facilitates their participation in sports and other group activities.

Finally, the reading that boys do should not be dismissed as inconsequential even though it often does not include the novels and other traditional materials usually read by girls. The genres preferred by boys can be equally helpful in their development of reading, thinking, and problem solving skills, and should be considered key resources in their education.


Brown, J.C., & Oates, L. (2001). Books to grow on: African American literature for young children. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Calkins, L.M. (1996, August). Motivating readers: First things first: Planting the seeds for lifelong reading. Instructor, 106(1), 32-33. (EJ 533 473)

Calkins, L.M. (1997, January-February). Motivating readers: Five ways to nurture a lasting love of reading. Instructor, 106(5), 32-33. (EJ 538 525)

Coley, R.J. (2001). Differences in the gender gap: Comparisons across racial/ethnic groups in education and work. Princeton: Educational Testing Service. (ED 451 222)

Coley, R.J. (2002). An uneven start: Indicators of inequality in school readiness. Princeton: Educational Testing Service.

McCarthy, S., Nicastro, J., Spiros, I., & Staley, K. (2001). Increasing recreational reading through the use of read-aloud's. Unpublished manuscript, Saint Xavier University, Chicago, IL. (ED 453 541)

North Carolina State Board of Education, Department of Public Education. (1999). Reading with your elementary child: Tips for parents--grades 3-5. Raleigh: Author. (ED 438 038)

Simpson, A. (1996, December). Fictions and facts: An investigation of the reading practices of girls and boys. English Education, 28(4), 268-79. (EJ 540 728)

Smith, M.W., & Wilhelm, J.D. (2002). "Reading don't fix no Chevys": Literacy in the lives of young men. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Tanksley, M.D. (1995). Improving the attendance rate for African American male students in an after school reading program through parental involvement, positive male role models, and tutorial instruction. Ed.D. Practicum, Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, FL. (ED 394 119)

ERIC Digests are in the public domain and may be freely reproduced and disseminated, but please acknowledge your source. This publication was prepared with funding from the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education, under Contract No. RI88062007. The opinions expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of OERI or the Department of Education.

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