I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

How to Make a Boy HATE Reading in 7 Easy Steps

How to Make a boy HATE Reading in 7 Easy Steps

It's no secret that there is a definite gender gap in reading. It's not just a national problem, it is a worldwide epidemic and has been since the 1970s. Statistically, boys tend to score several points lower on standardized tests in all language arts categories including reading and reading comprehension. And although the 2015 Brown Center Report on American Education does indicate that the gap has narrowed a bit in more recent years, the staggering truth is that when surveyed, 2 out of 3 adults who claim, "I don't read," were men. In other words, while the reading assessment scores of boys might be increasing, their desire to read is not.

As a mother of four boys, I find this disheartening, at best. 

(This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for full details.)

Has the social shift to provide ample gender equality in education actually put boys at a disadvantage to girls? In our attempts to level the playing field, have we actually tipped the scales in the opposite direction? I thought equal meant equal?

But maybe that's just me? Maybe I'm asking too much. Maybe boys were meant for lesser things. Maybe encouraging them to settle for the lowest common denominator is best.

If so, then the plan is easy, really. To get a boy to fail academically (especially in the area of language arts), all you have to do is get him to HATE reading. Simply follow these 7 steps, and you'll have your boy hating reading in no time!

How to Make a Boy HATE Reading in 7 Easy Steps- a list of what NOT to do

Teach reading with trade-show-readers

Since trade-show-readers like the ones lining the aisles of Walmart, Target, and even your local library were not written with natural phonemic progression in mind, they are perfect for teaching a boy to read. These books, written by regular authors who were given a list of high-frequency-words with which to mix-and-match into a story, provide no way for a boy to easily crack the code of the written word while reading them. As he fumbles along trying to make sense of these unrecognizable words, he'll begin to loathe the very process of reading. He won't learn to enjoy reading because he won't have any initial success at it.

Be sure to avoid ALL true emergent reader books. Those are books designed with reading progress in mind. They teach reading phonetically and will help a boy master his decoding skills. If he learns to read well, he might actually like reading more. And we can't have that!

Avoid reading out loud

On the rare chance a boy actually learns to read fluently while using trade-show-readers, stop reading out loud to him...immediately! Remember that the Commission on Reading stated that the "single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children." (Anderson, Hiebert, Scott, & Wilkinson, 1985, p. 23)

Reading out loud to a boy, especially after he has learned to read for himself, will only provide a frame of reference for vocabulary and pronunciation. It will furnish an opportunity for you to introduce uncommon words to him...words that don't naturally make their way into everyday conversation. Reading aloud will only develop a boy's inner ear and his ability to recognize sentence patterns, proper subject/verb agreement, and language structure. (Shakes head in judgment.)

And don't even get me started on reading out loud to him in order to set an example for the skills of reading...the ones that help with his inference and interpretation of the story...like inflection, intonation, and expression! If he can understand the mood of the story or enjoy the author's unique voice, he might like the story better. What's worse...reading out loud to him will engage both parts of his brain and not just the analytical side which tends to dominate while he reads solo. (Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, Vol. 20, Issue 3.)

Nope. Don't read out loud.

While we're on the subject of reading out loud, be sure that he NEVER reads out loud to you. Ever! As I'm sure you know, there are very few activities that will develop his phonological connections quite like reading aloud daily. Allowing him to read out loud will only increase his chances of reading mastery. He'll be able to see the word, decode it, speak it, and hear it. No. No. No. Reading out loud is too multi-sensory and could be catastrophic to your "boys drool and girls rule" reading plan.

How to Make a Boy HATE Reading in 7 Easy Steps- a list of what NOT to do

Shove "grossology" or series books at him

Be sure to follow the example of the majority of teachers and librarians today and cavalierly declare, "It doesn't really much matter what a boy reads as long as he is reading." Plunk down lots of money for "boy" titles like The Day My Butt Went Psycho, Captain Underpants, or Sir Fartsalot Hunts the Booger. Because, after all, that's all a boy can handle anyway, right? Once you've exhausted all the grossology books you can find, start peddling twaddly series books to him. You know the ones. The kind you see at Target and Walmart. Books with the same flat, uninteresting characters repeating the same action in a slightly different set of circumstances will be perfect! They're uncaptivating, lack mystery, and will bore him to tears.

And whatever you do, DO NOT under any set of circumstances give him a quality book...a book with rich language, well-developed plot lines, and interesting characters. No, that would just thwart all your plans!

How to Make a Boy HATE Reading in 7 Easy Steps- a list of what NOT to do

Insist that he writes book reports and answers lots of comprehension questions about what he reads

Encourage him to overanalyze everything he reads. Make a writing lesson out of each.and.every reading experience. Ignore the reality that book reports are actually designed for classroom use...in order to prove to a teacher of 40 students that all 40 students read their assigned books. Never mind the fact that you just saw him reading the book on the couch and that you just had an interesting conversation with him about the plot. Bombard him with written comprehension questions. Reading will quickly become associated with an assignment and pleasure reading (reading for the sheer enjoyment of reading) will be a thing of the past! Pure genius! (Insert sinister laugh)

Demand that he read from curriculum readers or boxed sets

With firm resolve, never ever let him read real books or books of his choosing. Those dry-as-dust curriculum readers that have short little senseless stories written by curriculum editors are just the thing to grow reading disdain. Or better yet, tease him with the thought of reading real books, but only allow him to read the books that come in a curriculum boxed set. True, those might be really great books that could compel some readers, but they don't compel him because he's not interested in reading about those topics. So, those books will be perfect! Keep 'em coming.

How to Make a Boy HATE Reading in 7 Easy Steps- a list of what NOT to do

Avoid audiobooks

Convince him that audiobooks "don't count"...that outsourcing some of his reading to audio books would somehow be "cheating." Remember, audiobooks feature professionally trained actors who use dialects, accents, and even sound effects to make the story interesting. Don't let him listen to them at bedtime, on long car trips, while doing chores, or as mindFUL entertainment. That would only nourish his mind and allow him to learn even while he is still learning to read. And that would be tragic!

Hold to a fiction-only mantra

Wave the fiction banner proudly. Make it known that only fiction books qualify for leisure reading. Ignore the fact that a great number of boys prefer to read non-fiction, how-to books, or biographies. Wag a judgment finger at him and teach him that Those kinds of books count for science and history, but not for "fun" reading. Fiction it is, whether he likes it or not! (Well played!)

How to Make a Boy HATE Reading in 7 Easy Steps- a list of what NOT to do

But I digress...

Obviously, this post is dripping with sarcasm. But as obnoxious or unbelievable as these "7 easy steps" seem, the truth is, I have seen them played out in home after home...always with the same results...boys who HATE reading. The gender reading gap is a THING. A real and undeniable thing. The dumbing down of our boys to create a better academic environment for girls is a disparaging look at our ME FIRST culture and a sad commentary of actual equality.

Our boys AND girls deserve better.

Book Suggestions for Boys 

20 MUST-READ Chapter Books for Young Boys
30 Character-Building Books for Young Boys
My List of the Top Book Lists {And Other Tips for Developing a Reading Culture}


  1. Amen to this!

    (But who am I kidding? I am always in adament agreement with all your posts.) ;-)

  2. If I had only known 10 years ago. I was such a naive mother. My son truly HATES reading, and in high school, I'm not sure that will ever change.

    1. Let me just encourage you...your son's story is not done. My husband did not become a reader until his mid 30s. Once he NEEDED to read to learn about a topic he was researching, he started reading. Now he reads nearly every evening before bed. Keep encouraging your son and don't give up!

  3. True x 7. Every single one of these steps (or the opposite) has played out in reality at our house!

  4. Hello Ms. Jamie,
    I agree with every point as well! As a mom of 5 boys (and 3 girls), I find reading to my kids such a huge pleasure and want to instill good reading habits in each one. I have a couple questions- Do you ever find that audio-books at bedtime interfere with quality of sleep? Do you set bedtime listening "rules"? With two emergent readers sharing a bedroom, they love listening to audio-books. However, we started hearing comments like: "I stayed up listening to the whole story!", "I had a dream that I was such and such character." And then noticed attitudes slipping during the day. We have replaced audio-books with classical music or the Bible on audio (their choice) for bedtime. They can still enjoy audio-books during their awake hours! Anyway, was just curious how you handle this, if it's an issue. Thanks for all of your insight! We are huge fans!

    1. Great question! Yes, that can be a problem. We usually let them listen for an hour past bedtime. By then, some have fallen asleep already. After that hour, we turn the audio book off and put on music.

  5. What an insightful and entertaining post! I actually enjoy the sarcasm, very Esolen-esque! Then again, I always enjoy your posts! :)

  6. Jamie, Thank you so much for this post. We've been reading chapter books to our first born since he was 3 years old. At 6, he has just completed AAR level 1 and has made great progress with this program. However, I'm discovering that he doesn't always enjoy reading the decoding readers that came with it. His biggest complaint is that the stories are too long. The "trade-show-readers" tend to be lengthy as well AND incorporate words/rules that haven't been learned yet. While he can often correctly sound out unknown words, these books have created frustration when reading. I am going to look into your list of emergent readers and see if we can't get our train back on it's tracks. This is a child who ALWAYS enjoys being read to and he enjoys making his own books (complete with illustrations). With all of these elements moving in the right direction, I need to make sure we capture the enthusiasm to read! Thank you for your enlightening posts. I find them quite helpful as we are only beginning our homeschool journey.

    p.s. We were lead to The Green Ember through your site. My son absolutely LOVED this book. My husband also enjoyed it so much as we got down to the last four chapters and bedtime had passed, he (my husband) couldn't wait for another night to find out what happened at the end.

  7. I haven't taught my son to read yet, he's 5, but I already have seen how problematic some of these are. I tried starting him on the same program I used with his sister and he was having none of it because she had read all of the stories to him already. He wasn't at all interested in reading something that he already knew. So, all new books and stories for him! Also, the books he usually chooses to look through the most are nonfiction about animals, so if I were to only do fiction with him it would definitely not go over well!

  8. My younger brother and I loved to read growing up. I did go through a stage though where I got bored with it and it was a struggle for my mom who homeschooled both of us from my third grade year until I graduated. I don't remember how old I was but there was a book I needed to read and I just wasn't interested and she tried everything to get me to want to read it. Finally she came in my room one day and sat on my bed and started reading it out loud. She must have read a few chapters because as soon as it got to a good part she closed the book and sat it on my bed and walked out. I finished the book that night and it was one of my favorite books growing up. I'll never forget that creative way that she went about it. I love how much my mom encouraged both of us to enjoy reading on our own!

  9. I'm so daft, I had to read to the comments to know you were being sarcastic--even after you said you were being sarcastic! I couldn't think as I panicked at the mental check list while going through your seven and thought oh no! I'm going to make them hate reading. I'm usually quick-witted...I think! (moves coffee cup away)

  10. Mom of two boys here. Funny post. I would like to share my experience with the grossology books, though. My youngest son read a lot of the "grossology" books around the 7-10 year old range - almost all of the titles you listed and then some others. I didn't panic or make an issue of it or show any judgment about the books. In fact, I bought ALL of those books that he asked for. I knew it was a phase and he's eventually outgrow it. My goal was to support his interest in reading at every phase and growth stage. So yes, at that particular stage, it really was about just reading, meaning fostering the idea that reading is enjoyable.

    He's 14 now and is currently reading The Lord of the Rings, and he's reading it voluntarily, not because I assigned it. He's asking to read The Art of War next. Going to the library is a fun outing in his mind. I think if the adults in the home model & show an appreciation themselves for good literature and don't force an agenda on their boys, the gross book phase will pass as they mature and they too will seek out more quality literature.

    1. I guess that's where I'll have to agree to disagree with you, Heather. I've seen too often that your experience is the exception and not the rule. I think it's great that your son transitioned to more content-rich books, but that is not the norm. It just isn't.

  11. I know this is an older post but I'm just now catching it. It's WONDERFUL! Though I do think you mentioned something along these lines on one of your YT videos, because I remember how I took your words to heart on not having homeschooled kiddos do book reports or written comprehension questions. That was such a novel idea to me! And it made perfect sense, after I thought about it. And, remearkably, my pre-teen boy (who is now a teen) enjoys reading much more than he did back when I was making him do all the "school stuff" in regards to reading. While he's still not a total lover of reading, it helps tremendously if I can pick the right books for him. (coincidentally, I also bought/rented trade show books for him when he was younger. ::sigh::) His favorite "real books", however, were the Indian in the Cupboard books and Where The Red Fern Grows. And although he complained multiple times through Huckleberry Finn, he just recently finished it and asked me if there is a Huckleberry Finn Part 2. hahaha Instead, I took him to the bookstore and told him that, as a reward for finishing Huck Finn and Animal Farm, he could pick ANY book in the store that he wanted to read for Lit class. And that sweet boy went off on his own, browsing aisle after aisle....and finally came back to me with a copy of Tom Sawyer! Hopefully, he'll come to love reading as much as I and his sister do! (and I will be sure to take your advice with my 2 younger boys that are just now in PreK/Kindergarten. Thank you for this wonderful article, Jamie!


    1. Monica, your words have made my day! That's so awesome that he's enjoying reading more. Don't regret the missteps. They're just part of the journey. It sounds like you are rockin' your homeschool!