Last Updated on March 11, 2024

Summer is a great time to help your kids learn to love to read. No text books. No homework. Just sheer, wonderful, fun, pleasure reading.

There’s just one problem: boys aren’t reading as much as they used to. Reading is the strongest predictor of school success.[i] Edward M Hallowell, in writing about The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness encourages “Read aloud to your children for as long as they will let you…a recent study showed that two of the activities most closely correlated with high SAT scores were eating family dinner together and being read aloud to as a child.”[ii] If we are going to raise good boys who have the intellect and interest in being leaders, we have to give them books to read and create an interest to read them.

It has always been a harder job to get boys to read, as opposed to girls. Michael Gurian says this is simply biology. Boys do less well in reading because they have a smaller corpus callosum—the part that connects left and right hemisphere of brains—, and that makes reading harder. But he also goes on to say that biology equals proclivity. It does not equal destiny.[iii]

My son, Robby, loves reading.

Because his dad and I loved it and rewarded him when he caught on. (This to the tune of several hundreds of dollars through his twelve summers between school years.) You can teach your son to love reading, but could I encourage you—since what we read informs our beliefs fiction or not— to avoid two kinds of books?

Avoid too many books that exploit flatulence and “grossology.” Maybe you’ve heard of “Captain Underpants” or the “Butt Books.” Perhaps you have a copy of the new classic “Sir Fartsalot Hunts the Booger.” These books have been published in an effort to meet boys where they are, and while a copy or two won’t kill all his brain cells and could be a gateway to reading, I don’t think they’re a great solution in raising good boys. (Do we really want our sons to stay trapped in a seventh-grade bodily-functions obsessed brain? Are the best role models for our sons found in a book about SweetFarts?) One Wall Street Journal writer lamented:

“One obvious problem with the SweetFarts philosophy of education is that it is more suited to producing a generation of barbarians and morons than to raising the sort of men who make good husbands, fathers and professionals. If you keep meeting a boy where he is, he doesn’t go very far.”[iv]

I am not saying that the Gresh home didn’t carry a copy or two of these kinds of books. (In fact, the kids rather enjoyed the stand-up comedy routines their dad built around Captain Underpants.) I’m just saying they should be the exception, not the rule to what your son reads.

Avoid books that blur the lines between good and evil. While we realize there’s a lot of debate to be had over books like the Harry Potter series or even perhaps The Lord of the Rings trilogy, it seems clear to us that the book industry has gone crazy with publishing tales of evil and that often the authors do not clearly categorize evil as evil. There are “good” vampires for our daughters to lust after, and “good” witches for our son’s to idealize. Be careful! The Bible says witchcraft is evil and in contrast to a proper dependence on God Himself. Galatians 5:20 lists it as one of the signs of the sinful nature. In many places it is condemned with the strongest of language. We should never take anything to do with witches, vampires, or darkness lightly especially if it is not clearly written out that it is evil.

When my son brought me, Dannah, Harry Potter to throw away, I was humbled at his…well, his goodness. He demonstrated a concern for his friends when he threw it away rather than giving it away, and when I looked in the pages I could see clearly what he did: the lines between good and evil were blurred. Since he told me that he liked the book and the style of it, I handed him a copy of The Lord of the Rings trilogy which seems to me is at least a little more clear about good being good and evil being evil. He devoured it…three times! I do realize that even this title has areas that can be debated as to good or bad messages in the book. The point is not to ban books,—and I’m not banning Harry. The point is to be discerning about what you read, because anything we expose ourselves to informs what we believe and how we live.


The above blog post is an excerpt from my book, Six Ways To Keep The Good In Your Boy.

[i] Effects of Technology and Male Teachers on Boys’ Reading, Australian Journal of Education, April 1, 2008, retrieved on, February 2011.

[ii] Edward M Hallowell, The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness, page 172.

[iii] Gurian, Wonder of Boys, ??

[iv] Thomas Spence, “How to Raise Boys To Read”, Wall Street Journal, September 24, 2010, retrieved February 5, 2011.

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  1. specialmom says:

    Many boys also tend to be more interested in non-fiction. And magazines about topics that interest them, like reptiles, cars, hunting, or wildlife, are another way to encourage reluctant boys to read.