Tuesday, October 19, 2010

WSJ: How to Raise Boys Who Read

As long-time readers of the blog know, one of my goals in writing both Warnings and this blog is to inspire the next generation of scientists.

But, it is a huge concern that many of today's young men are not reading well enough to get through school, let alone a science or engineering curricula. So, it was with great interest that I read this column in the Wall Street Journal about ways of making boys want to read. The money quote:

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.
So, what are some good books for young men that have to do with science?  Warnings, since it is a gripping story about science (rather than a "science book") is a good choice as this unsolicited email from yesterday indicates:

 Saw my former student XXXX XXXXX the other night, and he was
ranting and raving over your book. He said he read it in a single
sitting, couldn't put it down. 

I would suggest Warnings for ages 12 and older. In that same age group, consider Rocket Boys

For ages 7 to 11, you might consider Weather: A Golden Guide. Lots of illustrations and well written.  There is also Jim Reed's The Storm Chasers which is primarily a picture book-- with spectacular photos -- but there is quite a lot of text so it is appropriate to help improve reading skills.

And, for boys and girls of high school age, there is Jenna Blum's Storm Chasers. This is also the age where I would recommend The Right Stuff. The latter may of greater interest to young men (it is the story of the early astronauts and breaking the sound barrier).

So, put these on your Christmas or birthday list for the young man or woman in your life. These are all great books and you won't be sorry.  


  1. Hi Mike. The article places too much blame on electronics, while neglecting to mention the lack of bedtime stories contributing to the decline. Kids should be read to from infancy.
    The success of our teenage boy and girl is mostly due to our early reading. Yes, my son plays excessively on the computer, but we have to bug him more about piano practice.

    And it's not just electronic games that are to blame. We have done fine with antenna TV and neither kid has a cell phone. They love to read. I suggest for others what my wife introduced when they were toddlers - no TV/electronics day. We "manage" by reading and playing family games on Tuesdays.

  2. Yes, reading to children is vitally important. Agree with your other points. Thank you for commenting.


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