10 Mind Expanding Questions to Ask While Reading Out Loud

timmy_paReading out loud to our sons is great for bonding and enjoying common experiences. We know it develops vocabulary, increases listening skills, facilitates bonding and so much more.

But did you know you can supercharge his “mind expansion” by asking the right questions? Here are 10 questions to ask your child during or after reading a book which will help develop and grow not only his vocabulary and listening skills, but also help expand his mind.

  1. Using the cover art, the teaser text, the inside flap and introduction, what do you think this book will be about? What led you to that conclusion?
  2. How is the author telling us this story, from what or whose point of view?
  3. What do we know about the main character and why do we know this about him/her?
  4. Is the author setting us up to think something might happen, and if so, what in his writing leads you to believe that?
  5. What mistakes and what wise choices has the main character made and are they deserving of criticism or respect?
  6. What does the author mean when he/she uses a certain word/phrase/sentence? Why do you think the author use this word/phrase/sentence instead of some other description, explanation, etc.?
  7. How is the world the book characters lives in different from my world?
  8. How would you solve the problem the characters find themselves in?
  9. What was the plot of this book and how is this book different from other books we have read in this genre?
  10. Why do you think the author chose to tell this story, does the author have a bias or strong opinion that is coming through in the book?

Keep these questions handy and use them. But beware, your child might start thinking more independently and much deeper than his peers. This may cause problems with his teacher who may try keeping him quiet during book discussion time!

Special Reading Nooks

Not all boys want a special place to read, but for some it can be very helpful in motivating them to read, in setting up a good routine and lowering distractions. (But for some it can become a distraction, so be wise.)

I went on Pinterest and took a look at the reading nooks that people are pinning but found many were over the top and elaborate. Built in units, converted closets and outside converted sheds all seemed like a bit much to me.

I wanted something that was quick and easy and could be made with materials around the house as I figured that was what a parent would actually do! Most of us are not going to build something elaborate.

Then I realized something. Boys love to build simple forts. Why not let your son build a simple fort and make it his reading nook?

I assume your son is more than experienced with building inside forts, so I will let that up to your and his imagination. For outside forts I put together a few suggestions. I am sure you son will be more creative than me. Here is what I came up with in a few minutes on a walk around my  backyard:

I used an old sheet, lawn chairs, lawn chair cushion, table, tacks and a few rocks. Quick and easy!

It may be fun on a warm evening to allow him to read out in his fort with a lantern!

I would love to know what ideas you have. Go ahead and post them below.

If you want, you can check out my Pinterest Board featuring some reasonable Reading Nooks here: Boy Friendly Reading Nooks

How Parents Can Help Struggling Readers

The Literacy Journey

back_to_booksMaybe you don’t care why someone else’s Johnny can’t read you only care “Why can’t my Johnny Read?” You may find yourself frustrated with how much effort this whole learning to read journey is taking. Have you found yourself asking “Wasn’t it easy to get kids to read in the good old days?” Well, actually it has never been easy to get boys to read.

In reality, today our literacy rates are high when taking into consideration the history of literacy in the United States.

In the US in 1870 the illiteracy rate (those over 14 who could not read) of whites stood at 20%. For blacks in the it was at 79.9%. Then in 1950, the supposed “good old days” it dropped to 3.2% for whites and around 10% for blacks. By 1979 the illiteracy rate fell to .6% for whites and 1.6% for blacks. (National Center for Educational Statistics – nces.ed.gov)

We should be thankful for the many tools we have which make learning to read “easier” today than at nearly any other time in our Nation’s history, right? Well, I am guessing since you are reading this article you already know we still face a large problem getting boys to read and “your Johnny” may be one of the boys struggling.

Let’s get a grip on the problem. As many educators know, a child has to be able to decode or recognize words. The bulk of K-2 is spent on this process.  Once decoding and recognizing words is being practiced with some degree of regularity (at least with “easy” words) schools begin to work on fluency. All of this work is in hopes that by 4th grade a child reads fast enough to keep the words and ideas he is reading in his short term memory so he can make sense of it all (aka – comprehension). Fifteen percent of children in 4th grade read less than 74 words per minute – the rate needed to comfortably keep those ideas in the short term memory and thereby easily comprehend what is read. If a child cannot read with fluency reading tends to be painful.

If your son is a struggling reader, either because he cannot recognize words or because he lacks fluency there is hope. The key job for you as parent is to keep hope alive in your son by working at providing a joy of stories and the ability to get needed information from texts while school intervention and maturity bring your son to a place where he can read fluently on his own.

Let me explain why this is key.

There are many factors that come together to help a child read. Here are needed skills* –

  • knowing the letters
  • decoding the letter sounds (typically through phonics, note: some words cannot be decoded and need to be memorized, something teachers call sight words)
  • word recognition
  • fluency
  • text comprehension
  • a desire (motivation) to read

So, here is our present day problem. The first 5 skills take practice and the last skill takes multiple experiences. For some boys reading may come very naturally. But for other children reading takes a large amount of practice. Frustration for parents of a son who struggles to read develops because a struggling reader is not likely to voluntarily practice reading. It most likely is a real challenge to get him to read at all! So the very act that will help him improve is resisted because of his need to improve. (I realize that some educators never acknowledge this very real parental frustration and as an educator, I apologize – I know it is a REAL struggle.)

books_boysIf you have a son that is struggling to read, as his parent you have the opportunity to play a vital role in getting him over the “I don’t want to read!” syndrome so that he in turn can get the practice he needs to improve.

The following advice is meant to be followed together with working closely with your school. When a child is struggling always seek help through your school district. Reading specialists will be able to determine if your child has a physical issue (poor eyesight, difficulty tracking, etc.) or a processing issue or a low ability, etc. After 30 years of experience with education I can tell you that there are very specific strategies which can be used to help the struggling reader no matter what is causing his problems. However, the strategies differ widely depending on what is preventing him from reading, so work with your school to find out what strategies will work for your son.

While the school will play an important role, don’t underestimate how important you are in working through your son’s reading issues. There are several steps parents can do at home to help boys with the all important “practice” and “experience” in reading he needs. And, I believe that parents who follow these steps will get a bonus. Like many generations before us, reading together and engaging in stories through books brings a special parent-child bonding experience, not easily duplicated through other activities. It is a bonding through working together, shared experiences and cooperative intellectual pursuits.  The type of bonding that will help parents be a major influence for years to come.

Following these steps is something I call the Literacy Journey. This journey is made up of following some consistent practices that will set the stage to motivate and enable your son to get the all important ingredient of “reading practice” in order to boost his ability to read and read well. Think of it as a literacy vitamin! The journey won’t produce miracles, but it most definitely helps!

#1 Supply Motivation Through a Mutual Love of Stories

First and most importantly – give your son a love for stories and a love for discovery! Then demonstrate how his love for stories and discovery can be met by reading books! You can do this by discovering together through books. To begin with, think about the types of stories your son loves. Is there something he wants to learn more about? At first you may need to sit down with him and interview him to find out what he is interested in. Once you find out, get together with your local librarian and let her know what you are looking for. Then read together. Which brings us to #2.

#2 Regularly Read to Your Son

When I was in undergraduate school a professor asked us what was the best indicator of whether or not a child would become a great reader. We all took our turn guessing what the indicator was. Some said “phonics curriculum” and another “a loving engaged teacher” yet another “wonderful books.” The teacher shook her head “no” and just smiled and smiled. Finally we all gave up. She told us – the number one indicator was whether or not the parents consistently read to the child from birth on. Yep, that was the number one indicator! This is especially important if your son is having difficulty. You want him to “enjoy” stories and discovery to keep the motivation going. So read to your son often.

#3 Purposely and Consistently Expand Your Son’s Vocabulary

Recently while attending the Philadelphia Read by 4th! launch meeting we were told of the vocabulary gap among inner city poor children. Typically 4 year olds have a vocabulary of between 4,000 and 6,000 words. Unfortunately those who are not nurtured, spoken to and read to often have less than half the expected vocabulary. When entering kindergarten they already have a word deficit which will turn into a reading deficit which then turns into a graduation deficit. Parents who spend time in meaningful conversations – about the world, about life, about whatever boys like to talk about, can naturally expand his vocabulary. The better the vocabulary, the easier reading will become. Make sure you spend time every day engaged in meaningful conversation with your son.

#4 Work Closely With Your Son’s School

two_boys_readingWhile reading methods are better researched and more and more effective, many schools are struggling with measurable results due to a lack of cohesiveness in implementing reading strategies. If your son has a reading specialist get together with her and his teacher to ask how everyone can work together. Offer to implement and support reading strategies at home. When the parents and school work together the well researched methods will be much more effective.

#5 Compensate for the Frustration Reading Causes Your Son

The value of compensating for frustration is often underestimated or even missed by teachers and reading specialists. In my 30 years as an educator, when I have seen this put into action it has been remarkably effective. The concept is simple. For many boys, Struggling to read leads to frustration. Frustration leads to discouragement and a lack of effort. Discouragement and lack of effort means less practice. Less practice compounds the problem. Parents, you can help stop the downward spiral. Compensate by making reading homework a bearable if not enjoyable experience and especially by creating non school related times of reading out loud to your son.. This can be done by giving comfort, love and whatever it takes to make it enjoyable. If you cannot think of how to do this, think about how you really bond with your son. You know your son best as to what makes him tick so a list from me is not helpful. But here are some suggestions to get you thinking. For boys who like to talk and reflect, spend time talking about the books after you are done reading. For boys who love physical touch, cuddle while reading. For boys who like to be silly, joke a bit when reading.

Don’t forget to work with your son’s school for specific compensatory strategies which will bring down his frustration. Three compensation strategies I have seen work: The adult reads the sentence first, then lets the child read. Read every other sentence with your son. Allow your son to practice before he reads. Remember, reading specialists are very helpful.

Perhaps most important, make sure you spend time reading “fun” books (not part of school curriculum) to your son. Compensate and make home reading times enjoyable. This will supply the motivation your son needs to keep fighting.

— A note here. Some have raised concerns that if compensatory strategies (education jargon for how you compensate) are used a child will become lazy and just depend on the strategies and will not work at learning to read. Honestly, this does happen at first. Some boys are so exhausted from the struggle of learning to read that once compensated for they simply stop working at it for a bit. But it has been my experience, that boys nearly always come back around and once they are no longer hating every moment they have to read, they begin to work at it again. Remember, if they resist every chance to read, they will not become proficient readers anyways. Giving them a respite, then encouraging them to work at it again, will not harm them any more than the present course of action.

#6 Never Give Up

Sometimes the battle is long and hard fought. It may mean you have to read Social Studies and Science texts to your son until his reading catches up. It may mean many more evenings of reading work than you would like. You may find yourself looking for specialists in the field to bring added insights. Through your struggles, keep the focus because the opportunities and the “freedom” reading will bring to your son will be well worth the effort. Even if it takes time. Don’t give up!


When a boy struggles to read some parents feel helpless. However, parents really do have an important role to play in getting their son to read. Don’t feel hopeless, instead roll up your sleeves and begin to implement the above strategies. Reading success won’t be instant, but over time you will be glad you did.


Mark Strohm is an educator with over 30 years experience and as a school principal has led schools in reforming reading curriculum and strategies and improving reading scores in the elementary grades.

*If you are a special education teacher, I know my “list of skills” is a list which assumes a child has normal executive function and processing skills. A parent dealing with a child who has these larger “special” needs will likely not be looking for advice from an article like this, though many of our recommendations could help them as well.

Fun Bookmarks for Boys

One of the consequences of a female dominated world is that many of the “reading” materials are centered around girls. But don’t let that stop you from finding great boy “stuff” for your reader!

I started a pinterest board to highlight bookmarks a boy would use. If you know of some other great bookmarks let us know below!

Check out the pinterest board:
Bookmarks for Boys


10 Free eBooks for Late Elementary and Middle School Boys

Some boys are voracious readers. It is not that you mind paying for books, after all authors have to eat too. But if your son reads a book every day or so, that can get expensive!

So here at Boys Reading Club we set out to find some great eBooks you can download for free. All you will need is an e-reader device, a tablet or even a smartphone.

10 Great Books for Boys You Can Download for Free (if you hover over the book and see a price, that is likely for the printed version. Click on the title and you will go to Amazon and then look for the free kindle version.)

With a tablet, e-reader or phone you can download and read e-books. But did you know that many e-books can be downloaded for free? Here is a list of 10 free e-books we think boys will find worth reading. As most of the books are available as kindle versions you can use a computer kindle reader.

Editor’s Note: It has been reported that clicking on the book jackets may bring you to the printed editions which of course will cost money. Keep searching – both on Amazon and on Guetenberg – you should be able to find all of the following books as ebooks for free!


  1. The Red Badge of Courage http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/73 or Amazon 

for ages 6th grade and up, deals with the theme of war and has battle scenes.
The Red Badge of Courage is a war novel by American author Stephen Crane (1871–1900). Taking place during the American Civil War, the story is about a young private of the Union Army, Henry Fleming, who flees from the field of battle. Overcome with shame, he longs for a wound, a “red badge of courage,” to counteract his cowardice. When his regiment once again faces the enemy, Henry acts as standard-bearer. (Wikipedia)

  1. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer 

For ages 5th grade and above, deals with some rebellion, smoking, and cursing.
This book by Mark Twain is an 1876 novel about a young boy growing up along the Mississippi River. The story is set in the fictional town of St. Petersburg, inspired by Hannibal, Missouri, where Twain lived

  1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Tom Sawyer’s Comrade 

For ages 8th grade and up, deals with some content and expletives that may concern some parents.
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (or, in more recent editions, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn) is a novel by Mark Twain, first published in the United Kingdom in December 1884 and in the United States in February 1885. Commonly named among the Great American Novels, the work is among the first in major American literature to be written throughout in vernacular English, characterized by local color regionalism. It is told in the first person by Huckleberry “Huck” Finn, a friend of Tom Sawyer and narrator of two other Twain novels (Tom Sawyer Abroad and Tom Sawyer, Detective). It is a direct sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. (Wikipedia)

  1. Treasure Island 

For late elementary and up, but also a great read-a-loud book for elementary. Can be scary at times.
Treasure Island is an adventure novel by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, narrating a tale of “buccaneers and buried gold”. First published as a book on 14 November 1883 by Cassell & Co., it was originally serialized in the children’s magazine Young Folks between 1881 and 1882 under the title Treasure Island or, the mutiny of the Hispaniola with Stevenson adopting the pseudonym Captain George North.

Traditionally considered a coming-of-age story, Treasure Island is a tale noted for its atmosphere, characters and action, and also as a wry commentary on the ambiguity of morality – as seen in Long John Silver – unusual for children’s literature. It is one of the most frequently dramatized of all novels. The influence of Treasure Island on popular perceptions of pirates is enormous, including such elements as treasure maps marked with an “X”, schooners, the Black Spot, tropical islands, and one-legged seamen bearing parrots on their shoulders. (Wikipedia)

  1. Window Boy 

Ages middle school and up. Deals with difficulties of being in middle school in a wheel chair.
Window Boy is a 2008 novel written by Andrea White, author of Golden Spur Award winning, and Texas Bluebonnet Award nominated novel, Surviving Antarctica. The book is about a boy with Cerebral Palsy who has an imaginary friend, Winston Churchill. (Wikipedia)

  1. The Call of the Wild


Ages middle school and up. Dogs die and some intense situations.
The Call of the Wild is a novel by Jack London published in 1903. The story is set in the Yukon during the 1890s Klondike Gold Rush—a period in which strong sled dogs were in high demand. The novel’s central character is a dog named Buck, a domesticated dog living at a ranch in the Santa Clara Valley of California as the story opens. Stolen from his home and sold into service as sled dog in Alaska, he reverts to a wild state. Buck is forced to fight in order to dominate other dogs in a harsh climate. Eventually he sheds the veneer of civilization, relying on primordial instincts and learned experience to emerge as a leader in the wild.

London lived for most of a year in the Yukon collecting material for the book. The story was serialized in the Saturday Evening Post in the summer of 1903; a month later it was released in book form. The novel’s great popularity and success made a reputation for London. Much of its appeal derives from the simplicity of this tale of survival. As early as 1908 the story was adapted to film and it has since seen several more cinematic adaptations. (Wikipedia)

  1. White Fang 

Ages 10 and up.
White Fang is a novel by American author Jack London (1876–1916) — and the name of the book’s eponymous character, a wild wolfdog. First serialized in Outing magazine, it was published in 1906. The story takes place in Yukon Territory, Canada, during the 1890s Klondike Gold Rush and details White Fang’s journey to domestication. It is a companion novel (and a thematic mirror) to London’s best-known work, The Call of the Wild, which is about a kidnapped, domesticated dog embracing his wild ancestry to survive and thrive in the wild.

Much of White Fang is written from the viewpoint of the titular canine character, enabling London to explore how animals view their world and how they view humans. White Fang examines the violent world of wild animals and the equally violent world of humans. The book also explores complex themes including morality and redemption. (Wikipedia)

  1. The Trumpet of the Swan


Ages 3rd grade and up, though written at a 5th grade level.
The Trumpet of the Swan is a children’s novel by E.B. White published in 1970. It tells the story of Louis (pronounced “LOO-ee” by the author in the audiobook), a Trumpeter Swan born without a voice and trying to overcome it by learning to play a trumpet, always trying to impress a beautiful swan named Serena. (Wikipedia)

  1. The Three Musketeers 

Age late middle school to high school
The Three Musketeers is a novel by Alexandre Dumas

Set in the 17th century, it recounts the adventures of a young man named d’Artagnan after he leaves home to travel to Paris, to join the Musketeers of the Guard. D’Artagnan is not one of the musketeers of the title; those being his friends Athos, Porthos and Aramis, inseparable friends who live by the motto “all for one, one for all” (“tous pour un, un pour tous”), a motto which is first put forth by d’Artagnan.

  1. The Boy Scouts’ First Camp Fire or, Scouting with the Silver Fox Patrol 

Age late elementary and up
About a group of 8 boys who join the boys scouts and go on their first campout.


If you would like to look for more free eBooks here are some great sites to use.
amazon.com – simply search for “free books” or “free classics” then when you find a book you like, scroll down to see what others have purchased, chances are much of those books will also be free.

Another great place to look is gutenberg.org. They do not always have good descriptions, but they have thousands of free books.

Don’t forget about your library. Many libraries now participate in eBook lending programs. Next time you are in the library ask them if they have such a lending program.

If you know of some great free eBooks boys will enjoy let us know below.


The Great Value in Reading to Your Elementary Son

Many parents stop reading to their child once he is able to confidently read on his own. But there is great value in continuing to read to your elementary aged son. Here are three values to consider.

Vocabulary – Often boys will want to get to the story and won’t necessarily stop to figure out vocabulary. Yes, eventually they will read the word in different contexts and will figure it out, but they can learn the vocabulary much faster when a parent stops and discusses what a word means. But even if you don’t stop, often children will pick words up easier if it is read to them versus reading it themselves. (This has to do with working memory if you wanted to know.) Plus you will likely be able to read books at a higher comprehension level opening up classics and rich texts.

Comprehension – It is true, some children naturally comprehend well. But other children need direction and all children can benefit from the discipline of asking questions while reading. Here are some questions to think about:

  • Who or what is this about?
  • What is happening to him/her or it?
  • Is there a problem and if yes, what is it?
  • Why does that matter?
  • How can it be solved?
  • What do you think will happen next – are there hints the author is giving us?
  • What can I learn (is there a way to prevent the problem or a better way to handle the problem, does my family subscribe to a set of beliefs that would give me direction in handling this problem, does my faith give me direction in handling this problem?)
  • Does the author have some kind of bias or is he or she expressing assumptions that give us a hint of their beliefs?

reader_2I am going to make a confession here. My children would complain when I would ask questions. They just wanted me to read the story. All of my children, now grown, are great thinkers and all comprehend remarkably well. If I learned anything it was to read all the way through the chapter and ask the questions after, not during the story. But despite their objections the discipline of questioning paid off. Make sure your questions are not just asking for concrete or factual knowledge. Delve into inferences, explore intent, talk about characters strengths and weaknesses, make predictions, draw conclusions at different points of the story and see how your conclusions have changed. Reflect on why you like or dislike the characters, plot, climax, and conclusion.

Bonding – to pass on common experiences, teach values, acknowledge fears and joys, demonstrate your commitment to spending time with your child, give a confidence along with teaching to be resilient, nothing compares to actually spending time with your child. And a high quality way to spend time with your child is to read to them.

So, pick out a good book to read to your older elementary child, sit together and build some memories along with vocabulary, comprehension and bonding. Share, learn and grow together. Sooner or later your son will be too old, so take advantage of these times and read together.

185 Ways to Give Praise

185 Encouraging Words and Phrases to Give Praise to Your Son For Reading and More

  1. A Big Hug To You
  2. A Big Kiss For You
  3. A Plus Job
  4. Awesome
  5. Beautiful
  6. Beautiful Sharing
  7. Beautiful Work
  8. Bingo
  9. Bravo
  10. Creative Job
  11. Dynamic
  12. Dynamite
  13. Excellent
  14. Exceptional Performance
  15. Fab
  16. Fantastic
  17. Fantastic Job
  18. Give them a Big Hug
  19. Good
  20. Good For You
  21. Good Job
  22. Good Learning
  23. Good Planning
  24. Good Thinking
  25. Great
  26. Great Discovery
  27. Great Work
  28. Hip, Hip, Hurray
  29. Hot Dog
  30. How Nice
  31. How Skilful
  32. How Smart
  33. How Supreme
  34. Hurray For You
  35. I Knew You Could Do It
  36. I like the Way You Did That
  37. I Like You
  38. I Love You
  39. I Respect You
  40. I Trust You
  41. I Value You
  42. I’m Proud Of You
  43. Looking Good
  44. Magnificent
  45. Marvelous
  46. Neat
  47. Nice Work
  48. Nothing Can Stop You Now
  49. Now You’re Flying
  50. Now You’ve Got It
  51. Outstanding
  52. Outstanding Performance
  53. Phenomenal
  54. Remarkable
  55. Remarkable Job
  56. Say, “I Love You” – often
  57. Say, “Thank you”
  58. Spectacular
  59. Super
  60. Super Job
  61. Super Star
  62. Super Work
  63. Sweet
  64. Terrific
  65. That is Dazzling
  66. That is Delightful
  67. That is Divine
  68. That is Glorious
  69. That is Glowing
  70. That is Gorgeous
  71. That is Sizzling
  72. That Makes Me Happy
  73. That Makes My Heart Warm
  74. That Will be Famous
  75. That’s Swell
  76. That’s Amazing
  77. That’s Correct
  78. That’s Good Manners
  79. That’s Incredible
  80. That’s Perfect
  81. That’s Remarkable
  82. That’s Right.
  83. That’s the Best
  84. This is a Magic Moment For Me
  85. Way To Go
  86. Well Done
  87. What A Good Listener
  88. What An Imagination
  89. Wonderful sharing.
  90. Wow
  91. You Are Exciting
  92. You Are Fun
  93. You Are Responsible
  94. You Are So Important
  95. You Are So Responsible
  96. You Belong
  97. You Brighten My Day
  98. You Care
  99. You Did That Very Well
  100. You Figured It Out
  101. You Have a Great Sense of Humor
  102. You Have a Wonderful Smile
  103. You Learned It Right
  104. You Made My Day
  105. You Make Me Feel Good
  106. You Make Me Happy
  107. You Make Me Laugh
  108. You Make Me Smile
  109. You Make My Life Complete
  110. You Mean A lot To Me
  111. You Mean The World To Me
  112. You Tried Hard
  113. You Work Hard
  114. You’re a Genius
  115. You’re a Jewel
  116. You’re a Star
  117. You’re A Step Ahead
  118. You’re A Treat
  119. You’re A-1
  120. You’re Admirable
  121. You’re Adorable
  122. You’re Brilliant
  123. You’re Dependable
  124. You’re Dreamy
  125. You’re Enjoyable
  126. You’re Golden
  127. You’re Grand
  128. You’re Impressive
  129. You’re Inspiring
  130. You’re Invigorating
  131. You’re Lovely
  132. You’re My Dream Come True
  133. You’re My Prize
  134. You’re Priceless
  135. You’re Radiant
  136. You’re Ravishing
  137. You’re Really Cool
  138. You’re Reliable
  139. You’re Renowned
  140. You’re Second To None
  141. You’re Smashing
  142. You’re Splendid
  143. You’re Stunning
  144. You’re Thoughtful
  145. You’re Unrivalled
  146. You’re Unsurpassed
  147. You’re A Darling
  148. You’re A Good Friend
  149. You’re A Good Helper
  150. You’re A Joy
  151. You’re A Real Trooper
  152. You’re A Treasure
  153. You’re A Winner
  154. You’re Adorable
  155. You’re A-OK
  156. You’re Beautiful
  157. You’re Caring
  158. You’re Catching On
  159. You’re Exciting.
  160. You’re Fantastic
  161. You’re Getting Better
  162. You’re Growing Up
  163. You’re Important
  164. You’re Incredible
  165. You’re On Target
  166. You’re On Top Of It
  167. You’re On Your Way
  168. You’re One-of-a-Kind
  169. You’re Perfect
  170. You’re Precious
  171. You’re Sensational
  172. You’re So Creative
  173. You’re So Heavenly
  174. You’re So Kissable
  175. You’re So Much Fun
  176. You’re So Sweet
  177. You’re Special
  178. You’re Spectacular
  179. You’re Such a Joy
  180. You’re The Best
  181. You’re Unique
  182. You’re Wonderful
  183. You’ve Discovered The Secret
  184. You’ve Got A Friend
  185. You’ve Hit A Homerun

As originally published in Colossians2.com.

Motivate Reading Through Praise


boys_readBoys often love a conquest or a competition. And I don’t just mean organized sports. I know boys who dislike sports but will spend hours “defending the world” in video games. One way to motivate your son to read is through the use of incentives which will remind you to regularly give praise.

I suggest you come up with a way to track time reading, then give a reward when a set goal is reached. Do not make this too complicated. You basically have three parts to this system. You will measure reading. You will keep track of the reading. You will reward at a given time. Lets look at these three to help you get started.

What You Will Measure
I suggest you measure time reading instead of pages or chapters. However, if your child is a chronic daydreamer you may want to measure pages. For young children I suggest you measure spend time “with” books. A 10 minute period would be great. As they get older you can implement time you want them reading. Start our reasonably, then increase the time.

DSC_1477How To Keep Track
There are so many ways to track success. I suggest you track daily progress. You can make a simple chart and place a checkmark on it, but lets face it. That is a bit boring. You may want come up with a fun way to keep track. If you are into pinterest at all I suggest you check out fun ways to track success. Here is a board to get you started: Incentive Tracking

When your son reaches the goal you have set – then reward him. I suggest you set a goal of 7 days reading at the required time. When 7 days have been successfully completed do something special. Make sure your son knows what he will be earning. I suggest you not make this a “thing” but an experience. After working with hundreds of children, and working with parents to set up incentive programs I have discovered that more often than not children prefer an experience and often an experience with a parent, to getting a “thing.”

Set up that incentive and watch your son rise to your expectation!

Let us know what worked for you by commenting below.

Also, if you would like to know more in depth information about using positive incentives you can read 4 articles on this subject here: Positive Reinforcement

Help Your Son Develop A Love For Reading

We have heard it over and over, reading is our path to understanding and learning. However, reading is so much more than just gaining academic knowledge. If we only emphasised muscle development as the chief benefit of play, we would be missing so much of what children get from play. Children learn socialization skills, empath, gamesmanship, patience, perseverance, and develop and strengthen certain parts of their brain through play. And so too, reading does so much more than just strengthen academics and develop vocabulary!

caleb_reading_wdadI want boys to realize that reading opens up a wonderful world of friends as well as fun, action, adventure, horror, empathy, understanding and more. Possibilities a boy may never have imagined can be developed while reading. Many a breathtaking journey has been traveled, unchartered areas of the globe discovered, magnificent new friends met, all through reading.

Don’t let you son sit on the sidelines. If he is undisciplined, disinterested or unable to read fluently enough to participate in these wonderful adventures, it is time to take action.

Try one or more of these strategies to help your son develop a love for stories, knowledge and fun contained in books. These strategies will help all boys, but are especially important for reluctant, struggling or disinterested readers.

Expose your son to carefully chosen books. If your child needs to gain weight you would not place dull bland food in front of him. Instead you would fill his plate with wonderful tasting and inviting food. If you desire to entice your child to read you will need to do the same by exposing him to wonderful and inviting books! Not only should you choose well written and well illustrated stories you should also match your child with books that will fill his interests. If your child is a struggling reader, it may mean you will need to spend some time finding books both at his reading and interest level. Which brings me to our next strategy.

DSC_4057Use the libraries and librarians as a great resource. Check with your school and public librarian as they will have access to both interest and reading levels for most books in the library. Trust me, your librarian is used to boys with reading levels below their age (1st grade reading level with 3rd grade interests) and above their reading levels (8th grade reading level, 5th grade interest) and should be able to point you to an acceptable collection of books. And while we are mentioning librarians, they are typically more than happy to help you learn the electronic catalogue systems, which often supply you with reading and interest levels. Ask them to show you and your son how it works. My local library will even show you how to get dozens of free classics on your electronic reading device.

Reading to your son on a regular basis holds great potential to ignite a passion for lifelong reading. Nothing develops a better love of books as well as the stories and adventure contained within them than joint participation. Just your presence alone is often enjoyed by boys and you can really develop a love for books if you read in such a way that heightens the author’s work. Some parents want to open a book and begin reading, and then are disappointed that their child appears disinterested. If that is your son, then start with a discussion of what he thinks the book will be about. Challenge him as to why he thinks the story will progress in a certain way. If you know something about the story, present a question he will want to anticipate the answer to. For instance: “in caleb_reading_wdad2Treasure Island, young Jim meets an “old sea dog” who tells him tails of sailing on the open seas, what types of tails do you think he will hear about?” (By the way, Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson is available on tablet reading apps such as Kindle, Nook or Kobo for free as are a host of classics boys have loved for many years.)

To help reading times be successful you may need to modify your practices.  Allow your child to color or play with something quiet.  If you allow them to have a toy, make sure it is something simple like modeling clay or building blocks.  Then teach your child how to use their hands and listen.  Ask lots of questions to monitor their listening skills. When reading to your child, express your surprise and excitement. Ask your child to guess what will happen next. Talk about why certain twists and turns surprise you. Talking together helps your son create categories in his mind which strengthens comprehension and can only help to increase his joy of reading.  A fun alternative is to read a chapter together, then have your child read the next chapter on his own.  If you model advanced thinking skills, your child will most likely continue these thinking skills while he is reading on his own.

By reading yourself your child will learn by example. Talk about the books you are reading. Express your pleasure or disappointment in the stories and material you read.  My dear Mom recently died and my Dad has moved in with my wife and me.My Dad and I still talk about the books we are reading! During the special reading times, if at all possible you should participate.

Create special reading times. These can be family times when you purpose to cut off media distractions and read to your son or all read along side of each other. In our family we rewarded our children each night they got into bed (brushed, flushed and dressed for bed) by a given time by allowing them to stay up thirty extra minutes to read. Each of my children learned to love this “extra” reading time. If these special times become routine they are especially effective.

Reward your son with recognition. While all children love recognition, most boys seem to thrive with recognition. If you allow your children to watch TV or use a computer or video game, why not have them “earn” time on those less mentally stimulating activities?  We would allow our children 30 minutes of TV for every hour they read.  Then they could trade in an hour of TV for 30 minutes of video games on the computer. If you want to set up something more formal you can print out incentive charts. You can reward your child for minutes read, chapters read, books read, etc. Develop something that works for your son. Then when your son reaches the goals you set up, make sure they are praised and recognized for the achievement.

All four of my children learned to love reading. While two seemed to naturally devour books, two needed extra prompting. With the simple strategies above you too can pass on the joy of reading to your children even if they are not natural lovers of books.

Do you have ideas to add? Please add to the discussion below.

Why I Want to Promote Reading for Boys

DSC_3578-001As an educator I have watched, for over 30 years now, as boys have had fewer and fewer opportunities to read inspiring boy books. Some well meaning teachers and librarians have misunderstood boys and have foolishly taken away books with competition, fighting, war, hunting, subjects that are slimy, gross or just plain muddy or messy. This has left many boys with books that are all about “sugar and spice and everything nice.” But as the poem goes, because boys are “made of snips and snails and puppy-dog’s tails” they have been left with fewer and fewer books they find interesting that will keep them motivated to read.Continue reading