Encouraging boys to read

boy reading a book

It is a mistake to believe that boys do not like fiction. It is often the type of fiction presented to them that is the source of their rejection. On the whole, boys enjoy books which place action ahead of emotion and where what the characters do is more important that what they think or feel.

We see an apparent preference for the action novel. Boys tend to like books which match their image of themselves. They want to be able to identify themselves and what they would like to be and do. This is why books about characters engaged in sport have always held at least an initial attraction for boys.

Two names pre-dominate here - Paul Jennings and Roald Dahl. Robert Westall is another author popular with boys, particularly The Machine Gunners. Another popular author is John Marsden with his War series for boys aged twelve and up. For newly independent readers, Dahl's books include Fantastic Mr Fox, George's Marvellous Medicine, The Twits, Esio Trot and The Vicar of Nibbleswick. For seven to eleven year olds, his titles include Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Danny the Champion of the World, The Witches, The BFG and the autobiographies, Boy and Going Solo.

Paul Jennings has two fantastic illustrated books created in conjunction with Ted Greenwood and Terry Denton - Spooner or Later and Duck for Cover. After these, The Cabbage Patch Fib and The Paw Thing suit boys just coming out of the newly independent stage.  For key stage 2 boys, his classic "Un" series is perfect. These are collections of stories and titles include: Unreal, Uncovered, Unbelievable, Unmentionable, plus Quirky Tales and Round the Twist which is related to the TV series. Avoid introducing these collections too early as the humour and quirkiness may go over the heads of seven and eight year olds.

Michael Morpurgo has written numerous books, many of which appeal to boys – try Private Peaceful. The Harry Potter books are rapidly approaching the legendary status of Dahl and Jennings but they are more demanding of readers. Another popular series is the Alex Rider series by Patrick Horowitz – these appeal to teenage boys and are a great favourite with my sons. 

boys readingNon-fiction is popular with boys. Scholastic publish the enormously popular ‘Horrible history’, ‘Horrible science’ and ‘Horrible geography’ series. These present facts in an entertaining way, and appeal to many children. The series ‘Dead famous’ covers the lives of many people of interest to children, including Shakespeare and Spartacus. Similar series are also produced by other publishers, including ‘The lost diaries’ series by Steve Barlow and Steve Skidmore (published by HarperCollins). Biographies are a good way to get boys interested, especially biographies of their “heroes”.

Non fiction ideas

The Roman Record
(also in the series – The Medieval Messenger, The Viking Recorder, The Egyptian Echo).

Gamebook series
A Search-and-solve Gamebook -The Great Escape
A Choose-your-way Gamebook -The Castle of Fear
A Round-the- World Adventure Gamebook -The Magic Globe

Usborne First Skills
Starting Soccer ISBN 0-7460-3117-3

A Magic Mouse Guide series
World Wide Web

The Dr. Xargle series by Jeanne Willis & Tony Ross
Dr. Xargle's Book of Earth Mobiles
Dr. Xargle's Book of Earth Relations

Orchard graphic books
Voyage to Planet Voon
Nick Abadzis

Young Telegraph series
Super Heroes
Spine-Tingling Tales
Great Mysteries

Orchard Super Crunchies
Dirty Defending!
Cinderboy, Laurence Anholt & Arthur Robins

The Really Horrible Guides by Dorling Kindersley
The Really Fearsome Blood-Loving Vampire Bat
Maddocks, How to draw Cartoons
Michael Rosen, Hairy Tales and Nursery Crimes

More books boys enjoy reading

The following is a list of some recommended books for boys. There are a few suggestions to appeal across age groups, then the list is graduated with books for older boys appearing towards the end. Always be guided by what interests and appeals to your son. For the latest fiction book reviews, see our review pages.

Lobel, Arnold Days with frog and toad
Lurie, Morris  The Twenty-Seventh Annual African Hippopotamus Race 
Briggs, Raymond Fungus the bogeyman
Winton, Tim  The Bugalugs Bum Thief 
Goscinny, Rene  Asterix the Gaul
Arksey, Neil  Playing on the edge
Eldridge, Jim Captain Hawk and the stone of destiny
Blume, Judy Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, 
Blume, Judy Superfudge
Coville, Bruce My Teacher Flunked the Planet
Francesca Simon The Horrid Henry books
Rockwell, Thomas How to Eat Fried Worms 
Alexander, Lloyd The book of three 
Morpurgo, Michael Billy the kid
Flynn, Rachel I Hate Fridays
Iggulden, Conn and Hal The Dangerous Book for Boys
Rowling, J K Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone 
Rowling, J K Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Crew, Gary The Watertower
Gleitzman, Morris Misery Guts
Sachar, Louis Worry Warts
Westall, Robert The machine gunners
Pratchett, Terry Holes 
Pratchett, Terry Truckers
Pratchett, Terry The Disc World series
Morpurgo, Michael Private Peaceful
Winton, Tim Lockie Leonard Human Torpedo 
Paulsen, Gary  Hatchet 
McRobbie, David  The Wayne Dynasty
Marsden, John Tomorrow When the War Began
Rubinstein, Gillian Space Demons
Townsend, Sue The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole
Moloney, James Touch Me
Pullman, Philip Northern lights

Try following up on boys' general interests - here are some great ideas.
Many boys are Top Gear fans. Awesome Adventures: Vietnam and Awesome Adventures: South America really bring the TV series to life - you can almost hear the boys talking! The eye-catching covers and super illustrations will appeal to all boys and along the way they will be absorbing useful information about the countries. Beautifully presented books which break the text up into manageable chunks, interspersed with photos and speech bubbles.

Doctor Who is another perennial favourite. Try drawing boys into reading the stories through activity books such as The Intergalactic Survival Guide - the ideal companion for a holiday - and Battle Badges Activity book. These are full of activities to challenge and develop reasoning skills and observation. Weeping Angels contains two stories of an ideal length to give a sense of achievement, plus more fun activities.

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