From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A cure for teenage boys who don't like to read?

I was talking to my brothers last night. I sometimes do that. They're all total studs. And younger than me, though one is somewhere around six foot and the others are gaining on me more and more every day, so they're my big little brothers. Did I mention they're studs?

Anyway, the youngest was telling me about his practice ACT (something like that?) English scores, how he does really well on the grammar sections, but bad on essays and reading. And that he doesn't like reading. 

I tried not to act too hurt.

It's not like we sat and had a long discussion about it or anything, just a casual passing conversation, but he did tell me a few interesting things. See, this brother is a total jock. He has this incredible natural talent and watching him play basketball is a beautiful, beautiful thing. He's also a total sweetheart, definitely the most sensitive of my brothers. He's the brother who's had crushes on cute girls since preschool, and voluntarily folds his laundry right out of the dryer before putting it in the basket so it doesn't wrinkle. What teenage boy does that? So yeah, he's a very smart, sensitive, athletic and totally sweet kid.

Who doesn't like reading.

What he told me is this: he said when he reads he feels like its a waste of time, when he could be doing something else, i.e. playing basketball. I asked about awesome books like Harry Potter, and he said even if its a really good book he can't read for too long before he feels totally pooped out. He likes watching movies of books instead.

This is nothing new, I know. I thought, however, I'd get some of your thoughts on anything that could possibly be done to lead teenage boys towards an appreciation of reading. Not just for him, but in general. For future reference. I've got a few ideas: find relevant books on topics the boy loves. Maybe a rewards system? A good selection of books is key here, of course. Fun, exciting books, maybe that don't have a movie he can go to instead. But the whole reading-is-a-less-worthwhile-activity-than-other-things mindset is a really hard one to fight against. Perhaps that warrants it's own blog post. But yeah, do you have any ideas? What have you done when you've encountered this kind of thing before, and how has it worked out?

Oh, and anyone have recommendations for basketball books? Non-fiction, biographies, novels, whatever. For reals, I could use some brother may be getting a random and perhaps not quite wanted present in the near future.

Sarah Allen


  1. No basketball suggestions, but how about comics or graphic novels rather than books?

  2. I agree on graphic novels as an intro to books.

  3. Uck, this is such a hard topic. I wish I knew the way to lure more boys into reading.

    I love, love Matt de la Pena's work. His first book 'Ball Don't Lie' is about basketball.

  4. I don't know what to tell you. But I do know several boys who do love books and reading and I have the best chats with them when I'm cutting thier hair.

  5. It's funny, but I used to be in the same boat as your brother. My older brother, who was an avid science fiction nerd, would wax lyrical about this series called Foundation, by some guy called Isaac Asimov. I tried reading it then, but couldn't get past the first page (I must have decided it was time to go watch those reruns of The Powerpuff Girls or something).

    All I could stomach back then was the occasional Goosebumps. It wasn't until I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone did I finally see the light. That was the first time I was completely lost in a story. And by the time I read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, I was not only a fan of the series, but a firm believer in the notion that books were better than movies (a notion I had previously scoffed at).

    I think what your brother needs is simple. He needs to devote some time to read a really good book. It doesn't even have to be something inline with his interests. Heck, when I read Harry Potter, I didn't care much for the subject matter. I just wanted to see what all the hype was about. And I saw it, and then some.

    P.S: In case you're wondering, I now consider the Foundation series as one of my favorite sci-fi stories of all time.

  6. My husband never used to read, but now that he has the nook app on his phone, he finds himself pulling out a Terry Pratchett (which some boys love, even though they've been around for eons) when he's waiting somewhere. So I think changing up the traditional format of books can help, too.

    Lots of guys I know loved Mike Mullin's Ashfall. It's super intense!

  7. It sounds like he's really active and probably needs more interactive stimulation than one typically gets from mere words on a page. So I second the graphic novel suggestion. I just read a really good one -- "Radiation: A Tale Of Love And Fallout." There's the Curie love story, explosions, and lots of cool stuff. Also: science! You could also look into manga (I used to like "Naruto") or something like Neil Gaiman's "Sandman" novels, which I haven't read but are on my list because they are supposed to be ah-MAZ-ing

  8. Also: consider audiobooks. I listen to them on the metro or while exercising, so that could be something that would appeal to someone who feels that sitting down with a book is wasting time that could be better spent elsewhere. The Terry Pratchett Audiobooks are pretty fantastic.

  9. It's really tough. When I taught teenagers English, wow, what a struggle. The only way I could get them interested was to find really gritty reads that resonated with their lives.

    Graphic novels might be a good way in!

  10. I agree with Tere - a Kindle or Nook can suddenly make reading seem more accessible. My 22-year-old son has never been into reading, but since getting a Kindle at Christmas, he's been whipping through the books. I wouldn't despair at this stage - he may well come to reading later. But I know just how you feel - it's awful to hear someone say they don't like books!

  11. Studs, you say? Hmmm... ;)

    I know some people have already suggested this, but I'm a fan of audio books. So those may be worth a try!

  12. What about audio books? My husband likes reading but prefers audio books because for whatever reason, he absorbs information better audibly. When you listen to an audiobook, it's kind of similar to watching a movie. At the very least, you can close your eyes and imagine scenes unfolding. Something to consider?

  13. I probably wouldn't read if I was good at something. But I'm not good at anything so I read. Like seriously...if I could go out and play football like Eli Manning, I'd never pick up a book.

  14. I second Matt De La Pena, graphic novels, and audio books on the iPod.


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