If I were to offer a disclaimer prior to reading this article, I’d say that rather than being stereotypical about males, I’d like to think I’m being realistic about their needs and wants as readers. For instance, the disproportionate amount of boys labeled “at-risk” or “lower-track” when it comes to reading is what originally prompted me to tackle this subject. Much research has shown that boys learn to read later than girls and have trouble catching up later in life, and the literacy gap continues to grow with age. Girls tend to outperform boys with overall reading tasks, according to Reading Don’t Fix No Chevys by Micheal W. Smith and Jeffery D. Wilhelm. Yet, I recognize there are other factors at play (besides gender) in the lives of struggling and reluctant readers. On a personal level, I teach reluctant and struggling high school readers and have a disproportionate amount of boys in each class. I also have a son that I hope will grow up with a passion for reading. It has come to my attention that much of what is read in the regular high school curriculum is not always to the advantage of the male student. During my time as a Current Literature & Culture teacher, I have posed the questions:

  1. What do boys want to read?
  2. How do we motivate them to read?

To answer the questions, I have compiled a list of ideas that most of the boys in my classes have either mentioned enjoying, demonstrated enjoying, or demonstrated higher comprehension with:

  • Informational text: When given a text that teaches them something or allows them to accomplish something beyond the reading, boys tend to be more motivated and attempt to concentrate harder on what they are reading. These texts have a point, a purpose, and are something more meaningful to their everyday lives than a poem or short story. Often times how-to articles, information about a subject they are interested in (cars, sports, technology, etc.), or texts that can be easily exportable into conversation (sports scores, jokes, headlines) are a motivation for them to read.
  • Movie scripts: I came across this by chance. I had students look up and read a script of their favorite movie, of which they can visualize and have background knowledge. This would also be helpful for the ELL student. Students in my class enjoyed reading the original script version of their movie, comparing and contrasting it to the movie version, and visualizing what they read as they remembered seeing it in the movie. We used http://www.imsdb.comas our script source.
  • Biographies of people they care about: This lesson began with looking up biographical passages of favorite rappers, singers, movie stars, sports heroes on biography.com and branched to trips to the library to pick up autobiographies, biographies, and memoirs. Some student favorites included:
    • A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah
    • The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
    • Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston
    • Hole in my Life by Jack Gantos
    • The Snake Charmer: A Life and Death in Pursuit of Knowledge by Jamie James
  • Graphic novels: This helps develop visualization skills while also providing high engagement. The favorites from my students include:
    • The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman
    • Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
    • American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
    • Stiches by David Small
  • Some fiction: These selections are going to depend on the varying personalities of each student. However, I have compiled a list of fiction that my male students have thoroughly enjoyed and, in parenthesis, why they enjoyed it:
    • Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins(action-packed)
    • Scrawl by Mark Shulman
    • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
    • The Maze Runner by James Dashner
    • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (creepy, therefore, interesting)
    • Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers (realistic)
    • I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore (action-packed)
    • The Future of Us by Jay Asher
    • Maximum Ride by James Patterson
    • The Enemy by Charlie Higson
    • All the Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg
    • The Inheritance Cycle Series by Christopher Paolini
    • In addition, I would recommend using http://www.ala.org for a list of the top fiction books for reluctant readers of any gender.

The first week of every month, I will continue to grapples with the best practices in teaching comprehension skills and strategies to reluctant readers (which I hope to address in later blog posts), but for now I hope this list is helpful in finding a starting point to motivating male readers to find value and enjoyment in reading.

Please keep in mind these lists are intended for high school students.