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5 Factors Necessary to Motivate Boys to Read

Updated on October 21, 2011

Motivating boys to read has become a huge challenge in our society. Reading is probably the most important skill a person can acquire, and is necessary more today than ever before. Adolescent s who will be entering adulthood in these early years of the 21st century will be required to reach a level of literacy that is unparalleled in history. However, according to research, today’s students are not up to the challenge. This applies especially to adolescent boys. They are failing the graduation exams, and making increasingly lower grades on standardized tests because of this deficit in reading abilities. It seems that large numbers of adolescent boys have made the collective decision not to read. So, the question we must answer is how to get them interested, how do we change the way they view reading? How do we motivate boys to read?


The 5 Factors

In the book, “Reading Don’t Fix No Chevys”, authors Smith and Wilhelm suggest 5 things that must be present to provide the motivation boys need.

1. They must feel a sense of control and competence. Boys want to exert control over their lives, to be allowed to make choices. In order to motivate boys to read, they must be given some control over what their reading choices will be. Their interests are what motivate them. They also want to experience the competence that comes with having the skills to accomplish their goals.

2. They need a challenge that requires an appropriate level of skill. Reading that provides a level of challenge that equals their skills is what will motivate boys to read. In other words, they want a challenge, but not one that is so great they don’t feel competence. If boys are provided with reading selections they consider too difficult, more likely than not, they will stop trying. Length is also important to some boys. They tend to prefer shorter selections such as magazines, short stories, and newspapers.

3. They need clear goals for their reading selections. To motivate boys to read, there needs to be a relevancy to the material, a clear purpose that they can understand. They enjoy reading to get information, or to fix or operate things, or to solve a problem. Although we don’t always realize it, boys read a lot. But it may be manuals or instruction guides or the sports section of the newspaper. These things are relevant to their lives, and it is reading.

4. They are more motivated if the focus is on an immediate experience. Boys value their reading if it is for immediate enjoyment. They will read the newspaper because they want information about something that just happened. They like to read humorous things that make them laugh, and enjoy that moment. The reading they do on the internet, through social media, gives them immediate interaction and feedback. Again, even though some of this does not involve reading a book; it is reading, and that is the goal.

5. They place great emphasis on socializing. Boys are more motivated to read something that a friend suggests. They like the socialization of discussing or debating the material. They read the sports section of the paper in order to get information they can discuss with friends. They will read Facebook or Twitter to socialize with people.

Books that further explain the 5 factors

Reading Don't Fix No Chevys: Literacy in the Lives of Young Men
Reading Don't Fix No Chevys: Literacy in the Lives of Young Men

This book is the basis of the article, and explains the entire research process they used to determine their methods.



These steps can be utilized by parents to encourage their children to read at home, or they can be used in a school setting to motivate boys to read. Teachers will need to be creative, and perhaps give up some of the more accepted means of teaching, but if they use these steps, the majority of boys in their classes will respond positively.


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    • lhale profile image

      lhale 6 years ago from Georgia

      Thank you all for the comments. I certainly agree with you, gmwilliams, boys do need to evolve into lifelong readers. I think, if you can get them started and get them comfortable with reading, many will eventually go for heavier reading. And yes, BradyBones, Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a great book for reluctant readers. In fact there are a log of high interest books available to boys. I might do a post on that. Miccimom, you might try asking your local libraian to point you to some of this type reading for your son. Good luck.

    • BradyBones profile image

      R. Brady Frost 6 years ago from Somewhere Between a Dream and Memory

      This was interesting. I would highly suggest the Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Choose Your Own Adventure series to help get adolescent boys interested in reading. Both of these are good starting off points that are not too difficult and meet the criteria you posted in this Hub. :)

    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 6 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      This is such an informative hub. We must make reading fun in order to get our young men to read. In addition to that, reading must be made relevant in order for them to read. Fun+ relevance=lifelong reader. I do not mean magazines and light reading, I mean classics, literature, and other educational reading materials. It can be done!

    • miccimom profile image

      miccimom 6 years ago from U.S.A

      This is some good advice. My son hates to read. I have tried magazines, taking him to the library, ect..most of his reading is from his homework and what he does in school. He does take in a page or two here and there, but if I bring it up I get the opposite effect. Like you mentioned, if a friend brings up a good read,magazine article,ect.. he would be more interested.