Boy-Approved Literacy

Boy-Approved LiteracyResearch shows that we need to step up our game when it comes to teaching boys to read and write. Boys are lagging behind in the literacy department, and although the reasons are varied, there are some simple things that parents and teachers can do to help improve the situation.

I’m a big believer in offering boys and girls the same types of opportunities and I encourage my boys to pursue their interests, whether that means playing with dolls, painting pictures, playing ball or discussing their bodily functions.

That said, boys and girls do learn differently. As a mom of three boys, I can’t ignore that fact. We can all help boys learn to be better readers and writers by acknowledging those differences, by offering more literacy activities that relate to their interests, and by letting them learn in active ways.

Our favorite boy-approved literacy activities:

1. Write books that are a little gross, messy and weird. In our house, if the boys are allowed to write about farts and bloody battles, they’re happy campers. If they have to write about a pre-selected topic and edit their spelling and handwriting, they lose interest quickly. Obviously neatness, editing and writing about socially acceptable topics all have their place, and of course families can set some reasonable limits when it comes to the gross stuff. But in order to love writing, kids need a lot of judgement-free time and space to just write.

2. Audiobooks: Audiobooks have turned my son who only tolerated reading, into an avid and voracious reader. Why? He can listen to epic stories while he’s on the move. Also, because they’re read aloud, he can access stories that are a little above his reading level but perfect for his interest level.

3. Act it out: My sons’ favorite way to process what they read is to act out the reading, usually with LEGO or other action figures. If they’re really into a story, they often take reading breaks to go build the characters and scenes with their toys and act out what they just read, or use the characters from the story to act out a new scene from their imagination.

4. Read weird things. It’s ok. I admit, I used to get annoyed when my boys read their yearbook, or a program from the Sounders game, or those half-books that come out of a cereal box during their nightly reading time. I felt like they should be reading more substantial text, in the form of actual books. But it’s ok. Reading is reading, and self-selected reading always wins. And when they get to pick what they read, they like it, so they read more. And eventually they pick up other types of actual books and read those too!

5. Make spelling creative and active. Learn to spell tricky words by spelling them as you play catch or jump on a trampoline, act out the letters of the word, write them in the sky, draw colors and pictures around the word, make the letters with playdough… Anything to keep the hands and bodies moving!


Here’s my list of favorite books, blogs, articles and fun resources for parenting and teaching boys. If you have boys, you’re probably familiar with these. If not, definitely check ’em out! (*I’m an Amazon affiliate, so I receive a small commission on items purchased through Amazon links.)

Teaching Boys

Parenting Boys:

Do you have other favorites to add to the list?

Do you have some great ideas for getting boys excited about literacy?

If so, shoot me an email or let me know here in the comments! I’d love to hear from you!



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