In the US, a 2016 survey of over 2,000 children (aged six to 17) showed that only 52% of boys (versus 72% of girls) said they liked reading books during the summer holidays, while 45% of boys (versus 36% of girls) said they had trouble finding books they liked. In general, boys have also scored lower than girls on national reading tests, with the gender gap widening as children get older.
Two large-scale studies conducted in the UK several years ago also revealed that boys of every age are less careful readers than girls, i.e. they take less time to process what they’re reading, tend to skip over parts, and prefer books that are easy for them.
Here in Singapore, a 2017 survey of about 6,000 secondary school students showed that 59.2% of boys enjoyed reading, compared to 77.7% of girls. Local boys were said to read more for functional reasons, whereas girls tended to read for pleasure. However, both genders reported enjoying adventure, horror, science fiction, and fantasy books, as well as biographies and travel books.
If your son is in primary school and hasn’t caught the reading bug, what can you do? A KSP member with a Primary 3 boy shares her tips:
Start slow. Don’t be pressured to keep up with what other kids are reading, or feel that you need to steer your child towards “proper” or “better” books. My own daughter was reading Harry Potter by age seven, while my son entered Primary 1 still having trouble sounding out and deciphering words.
For my son, I focused on reading picture books with him in his Primary 1 year, and we gradually moved on to Scholastic’s beginner readers, which were useful for helping him to transition to chapter books.
Find creative ways to hone reading skills. Beyond books, you can create opportunities in daily life for your child to read. For instance, you could get your child to check your text messages for you, or to read your e-mails.
When my son watches Netflix or YouTube, I’ll get him to turn on the captions — it’s only natural to read along, and it’s particularly useful when there’s a word that he hasn’t encountered before, so he can see and hear it at the same time.
Buy more than one version of a book. Beginning readers find many books intimidating, usually because a book appears too thick or wordy. In our home, we have the full-colour illustrated versions of well-loved books such as Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, which are much more enticing than the regular texts.
For my son, I’ve taken the additional step of borrowing or purchasing audiobooks for some of the stories in our collection, so he can listen and read at the same time, or simply listen to the story at bedtime. It’s helped to ease his resistance to more challenging books, and to raise his reading level.
What Primary 1 & 2 Boys Are Reading
“In my son’s Primary 2 year, I asked other parents what their sons were reading. A handful of his classmates were reading more advanced stories such as Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia. Some boys were reading classic stories such as Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven series, or books by Roald Dahl. Below are more series books recommendations, based on what my son and his classmates enjoyed in Primary 1 and 2.”
Fly Guy (Series)
Author: Tedd Arnold
Synopsis: A boy catches a fly, and he is amazed when the fly calls him by his name — Buzz. Buzz’s parents think the fly is a pest, not a pet. However, the fly soon proves how smart he is with some quick flying, and earns the name Fly Guy. The adventures of Fly Guy and Buzz are filled with puns, slapstick humor, and goofy illustrations; all guaranteed to keep beginning readers laughing and reading. (Website)
Recommended Age: 4+ Commonsense Media Rating: N.A. Find It At The Library: Print and e-book editions available.
Scholastic Branches (Series Books For Growing Readers)
Synopsis: Scholastic’s Branches line of early chapter books is designed for those ready to read independently, and helps them transition from leveled readers (e.g. Ladybird’s Peter and Jane series) to chapter books. With different series options, each featuring riveting stories, fun characters, and engaging art, there is a Branches book for every reader. (Website)
Recommended Age: 5+ Commonsense Media Rating: N.A. Find It At The Library: E-book editions available.
Dog Man (Series)
Author: Dav Pilkey
Synopsis: From the creator of Captain Underpants comes Dog Man, the crime-biting canine who is part dog, part man, and all hero! With the head of a dog and the body of a human, this hybrid hound has animal instincts and a nose for justice. Although parents might frown upon the toilet humour and deliberate misspellings, kids find the books endearing and compelling — don’t be surprised to find your reluctant reader clamouring for more. (Website)
Recommended Age: 6+ Commonsense Media Rating: Mild warnings. Find It At The Library: Print and e-book editions available.
Geronimo Stilton (Series)
Author: Elisabetta Dami
Synopsis: Imported from Italy, this series about a globetrotting mouse journalist is great for kids who love funny adventures, along with a good dose of cheesy puns. Geronimo Stilton is the editor of The Rodent’s Gazette, the newspaper of New Mouse City, capital of Mouse Island. He embarks on various adventures with his wacky family, each of which is detailed using illustrations and fun fonts. The graphics may be distracting for intermediate readers, but they are good for enticing beginning readers to pick up a chapter book. (Website)
Recommended Age: 7+ Commonsense Media Rating: N.A. Find It At The Library: Print, e-book, and audiobook editions available.
The Magic School Bus (Series)
Synopsis: The Magic School Bus is a series of children’s books about science, featuring the adventures of Ms. Valerie Frizzle and her class, who have access to a school bus that takes them on field trips to impossible locations, including the solar system, clouds, and the human body. (Website)
Recommended Age: 7+ Commonsense Media Rating: Mild warnings. Find It At The Library: Print editions available.
The World’s Worst Children (Series)
Author: David Walliams
Synopsis: From Dribbling Drew, a boy whose drool gets him into terrible trouble, to Sofia Sofa, a couch potato so stuck to the sofa that she’s turning into one, the uproariously funny cast of characters in The World’s Worst Children will delight young readers. (Website)
Recommended Age: 8+ Commonsense Media Rating: N.A. Find It At The Library: Print editions available.
The Treehouse Series
Author: Andy Griffiths
Synopsis: Andy and Terry live in a treehouse that would delight any child — their treehouse has a bowling alley, a see-through swimming pool, a secret underground laboratory, a marshmallow machine, and so much more! (Website)
Recommended Age: 8+ Commonsense Media Rating: Mild warnings. Find It At The Library: E-book editions available.
Diary Of A Wimpy Kid (Series)
Author: Jeff Kinney
Synopsis: It’s a new school year, and Greg Heffley finds himself thrust into middle school, where undersized weaklings share the hallways with kids who are taller, meaner, and already shaving. The hazards of growing up before you’re ready are uniquely revealed through the words and drawings in Greg’s diary. (Website)
Recommended Age: 9+ Commonsense Media Rating: Mild warnings. Find It At The Library: Print, e-book, and audiobook editions available.