How to Raise Boys Who Read from a dad of 6 boys!

Raising Boys Who Love to Read

Thank you to my work Dad Friend (who also has a blog,, an online ad archive)  for this great article from the Wall Street Journal on How to Raise Boys Who Read by Thomas Spence.   The article has this funny tagline:  “Hint:  Not with Gross-Out Books and Video Game Bribes.” Spence is apparently disgusted by the pandering of publishers to reluctant boy readers with gross-out books and proposes a simple solution that worked for his 6 (that’s right, folks, SIX!!!!) boys:  TURN OFF THE SCREENS!  FILL THE HOUSE WITH GOOD BOOKS.  It worked for him and now he has research to back it up.

Here are some choice paragraphs:

My own experience with six sons is that even the squirmiest boy does not require lurid or vulgar material to sustain his interest in a book.

The appearance of the boy-girl literacy gap happens to coincide with the proliferation of video games and other electronic forms of entertainment over the last decade or two. Boys spend far more time “plugged in” than girls do. Could the reading gap have more to do with competition for boys’ attention than with their supposed inability to focus on anything other than outhouse humor?

Dr. Robert Weis, a psychology professor at Denison University, confirmed this suspicion in a randomized controlled trial of the effect of video games on academic ability. Boys with video games at home, he found, spend more time playing them than reading, and their academic performance suffers substantially. Hard to believe, isn’t it, but Science has spoken.

The secret to raising boys who read, I submit, is pretty simple—keep electronic media, especially video games and recreational Internet, under control (that is to say, almost completely absent). Then fill your shelves with good books.

I offer a final piece of evidence that is perhaps unanswerable: There is no literacy gap between home-schooled boys and girls. How many of these families, do you suppose, have thrown grossology parties?


My conclusion to his simple solution is that he’s right.  My five-year-old son needs to be policed by the likes of the KGB to make sure his screen time is limited.  He’s much more dexterous on electronic devices thereby finding more interesting ways to use them plus happening into more interesting content than his two older sisters.  I never had to limit their screen time except for T.V. and they were happy with PBS Kids for a really long time.   To this day, they spend far less time on the computer and gaming devices than their little brother and yet they own more electronic devices.  The Irony!

A recent example:  for my son’s upcoming 6th birthday, he picked out this complicated multi-pieced Bakugan (cost $50).  For finally sleeping in his own bed through the night (yes, we do the family bed thing but all the kids get kicked out by 5 theoretically but those who plead a good and consistent case can eke it out until nearly 6 whereupon they get a new big bed and finally make the leap), he asked if he could open one birthday present early.  Fine!  An hour or so later, he had a completed Bakugan and was demonstrating its fine points while we were waiting for the girls at school.  (We go a half-hour early to encourage outdoor play time and to score a good parking spot.)  I was pretty impressed with his presentation because that giant Bakugan was very complicated.

Me:  “How did you figure out how to put all the pieces together?”

5-year-old son:  “Easy mom. I just googled Collosus Dragonoid and watched the video on uTube!”

Hmmm… I think I need to hire the KGB to monitor his screen time or do a better job myself.  And maybe I can hide the chargers…

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Melody

    I had to laugh at your reference to the KGB to keep tabs on your son’s electronics use. I can completely relate!

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