Hook the Boys on Reading!

For Lower Elementary Students

With the very youngest readers, the sheer excitement and novelty of looking at print, pouring over illustrations, and recognizing sight words will go a long way to building enthusiasm for reading and literacy time. But if you are going to maintain that enthusiasm once boys have begun reading more independently, there are some critical things to remember and do in your classroom.


Before/during reading

Have a reading routine. Establish firm guidelines so that students know exactly what is expected of them during this time called “reading.” Model and practice what it looks like and sounds like. Rituals and routines are comforting and create continuity from day to day. For the sake of your boys, structure the Readers Workshop so that there are short spurts of focused work, along with opportunities to move and to talk.

Expand your own definition of what reading is and make sure that your classroom library is stocked with a wide array of types of reading material—non-fiction, graphic novels/comic books, magazines, how-to books, almanacs, trivia books, books with a strong visual component, jokes and riddles, realistic fiction, poetry, online e-books, etc. Why? Boys need to see themselves reflected in the things they read. Actively promote materials beyond traditional fiction by giving booktalks or brief mini-lessons about them, so they are perceived as having value as well.

Create comfortable and inviting spaces for reading. Give thought to placement of furniture, storage of and access to reading material, etc. Boys may need a space that allows some “wiggle room.”

Capitalize on boys’ competitive nature and challenge the class to increase the number of minutes they read independently each day by one minute (stamina) until they meet the goal you have set for them. Use a timer and create a graph on your interactive white board or chart paper.

Invite male role models into your classroom during reading time. Allow your boys the chance to see and hear them reading, and have these volunteers listen to your boys practice reading aloud. Consider having a Dads Read event.


After reading

Younger students enjoy and benefit from multiple readings of the same text. If the text lends itself to Reader's Theater, have several students who read the same text act it out. (Recruit volunteers to type texts for you in script form. Or look here for some Reader’s Theater resources on TeachersFirst.) Though Reader's Theater doesn't require the use of elaborate costumes or props, let your boys have hands-on time creating some simple props or masks that will help to tell the story.

Have students assume the identity of one of the characters from the text.  Play a game like the popular board game Guess Who.   Allow the audience/group to ask yes-or-no questions, citing details from the text to determine who the character is.

Create a “maker-space” or center with shoeboxes, construction paper, poster board, scraps, found materials, etc. where students can re-create the setting or a particular scene of a text that they read.

Occasionally use a reading log as a tool to keep boys engaged. Again, capitalize on their competitive spirit, competing against themselves. After a goal-setting conversation, provide challenges such as:

  • Can you read more pages than last week?
  • Can you read at home for more minutes than last week?
  • Can you read two more books by the same author?
  • Can you find five new facts from your informational text?
  • Can you explore three new kinds of reading (genres, or other organizational types) this month?


Books for lower elementary readers

This list is a small sampling of books that exemplify what we know most young boys enjoy and look for in their reading: characters like themselves, action, visuals that advance the action, and humor. These are books that give them things to do, to laugh about with their guy friends, to build or make things, and from which to learn fascinating facts to share with others.

Arnold, Tedd. Hi! Fly Guy! (and others in theseries.)ISBN: 978-0545007221  Lexile range for the series: 170-420
Boys love these fast-paced and silly early readers, with fun illustrations and crazy predicaments for Buzz and Fly Guy. The shiny foil covers attract boys initially, but the action and humor keep them coming back for more installments.

Grey, Mini. Traction Man is Here (and others in the series). ISBN: 0-375-83191-6. Lexile range for books in the series: 540-770
What boy doesn't love action figures? Follow Traction Man on his adventures with Scrubbing Brush and other “characters” who are household objects. Funny and fresh!

Hayes, Geoffrey. Benny and Penny in Just Pretend (and others in the Toon Books series) ISBN: 9780979923807. Lexile: GN90
In this graphic novel created specifically for your youngest readers, Benny is upset when sister Penny interferes with his swashbuckling adventures as a pirate. A sweet tale of sibling issues that students can relate to, with illustrations that have an old-fashioned feel to them. This is part of a series of graphic novels created under the direction of comic master Art Spiegelman. Look for other works (divided into three specific levels, each with its own criteria) in the collection here. These books make the popular graphic novel format accessible to emergent readers, while also giving students an opportunity to grow as the books become more complex.

Lobel, Arnold. Frog and Toad are Friends (and others in the series). ISBN: 9780590045292. Lexile: 400.
Boys will easily see themselves in situations similar to those of Frog and Toad in the five chapters of this book and its companion volumes. Quiet humor and reassuring endings have helped these books stand the test of time. Once your boys read one, they'll want to read the whole series.

McMullan, Kate and Jim. I Stink! (and others)ISBN: 0-06-029849-9 Lexile:BR
The McMullans score big with this series of books about things that go. What's not for boys to like about books that have large, colorful illustrations of anthropomorphized machines and dinosaurs and titles like I'm Mighty! I'm Bad!, I'm Dirty! I'm Fast! ? In I Stink! boys canfollow the nightly antics of a city garbage truck as it “eats” its way through the alphabet, feasting on everything from dirty diapers to zucchini.

Munro, Roxie. Mazeways: A to Z. ISBN: 1-40273774-2. Lexile: not available
This book is a visual feast for boys! Munro created a themed maze for each letter of the alphabet. Boys will love building their visual literacy by poring over the pictures in search of over seven hundred hidden objects.

National Geographic Readers series.
This collection of science readers covers a host of topics sure to interest many of your boys. They span five different levels, and have carefully crafted text and the caliber of photographs you've come to expect from National Geographic. Diagrams and other non-fiction text features and a reasonable price make them great choices for your classroom library. See the available titles here.

Osborne, Mary Pope. Magic Tree House series. Lexile range for the series: 230-590.
Popular with many boys in the early grades, this series of over seventy books offers predictable, familiar characters in a variety of settings. Jack and Annie's adventures back through time and in unusual places around the world offer action, a bit of historical context, and opportunities to practice recognizing the elements of story. The non-fiction companion books to many of the books in the series help to extend the learning and satisfy boys' desire to know more about what they encountered in the fictional stories.

Willems, Mo. Elephant and Piggie series.  Lexile: not available
Almost twenty Elephant and Piggie books exist now, and a number of them are New York Times best-sellers. Boys are able to relate to what they see in the books because they encounter similar problems (and joys) in their daily lives. Willems is economical with his use of words and his illustrations are remarkably expressive. Fun, and funny!