[Reprinted from Literacy 101: Language Arts Instruction, K-3, Kim Bennett (2011)]
Teachers and parents often struggle to create a love of reading in young boys. In fact, most of the books that we use in classrooms are selected by their (female) teachers, and appeal more to the sensibilities of the girls in our classrooms more than the boys.
Any of you who either teach or live with a boy from the age of 7 to 27 know that they often operate under a different set of humor rules. For example, all of my boys learned magically how to make rude noises with their armpits (and even the back of the knee!) without begin taught by anyone. An informal survey of the adult males in my life showed me that about 99% of the men I know ALSO know how to do this. For a comparison, count the number of girls and women that report being able to (or even WANTING) to do this. See what I mean?
My experience as a mother and teacher also showed me that boys really like books that come in a series. I can't explain why -- maybe it's the competition with their friends ("I'm on Night of the Ninjas... which one are you reading?"). Maybe it's because the books in series tend to be a series of adventures, which appeal to boys. At any rate, I did well if I bought up a bag of series books at a tag sale -- they flew off the shelf in the hands of my boys.
Here are some books that are tried-and-true favorites of the boys I've known. For more ideas, check out this "List Mania" list for more books series for middle school boys. For a list of summer reading programs and ideas to keep your boys reading all summer long, check out my post, Summer Means... Summer Reading Programs.
Junie B. Jones is one of those kids that stays in a grade a long time, at least in books! The first Junie B. Jones book starts with her entering school as a kindergartner. After 17 books about her kindergarten days, there are 10 in the Junie B. Jones, First Grader series, all written by Barbara Park.
While the main character is a girl, and girls definitely like these books, Junie B. is not your typical girl. Kindergarten through second grade boys love to hear Junie B. tell a classmate, "How would you like me to kick you in your can?" She also has a very interesting perspective on how life and school work, and is always kind of, sort of, in trouble for things like forgetting the "assembly rules" and such.
A good series for 1st and 2nd graders.
There are currently eight books in this collection, with two (reportedly) in the works by author Dav Pilkey. I know of parents and classroom teachers who banned these books from their kids' hands. Their reasons included misspellings (the books are based on a comic-book series that the two main characters create, and they are known more for their pranks than their literary prowess), irreverence (you know, the "kids against teachers kind") and many, many references to "potty words." Anyone who has taught kids of any age, especially boys, know that potty words, all by themselves, are funny. Whatever the objections, boys eat these books up. Good for great 1st grade readers through 3rd graders.
I get to visit a lot of schools, and all age ranges of kids. Everywhere I go, I have seen one of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books in the hands of most boys, from grades 2 through 6. This seems to be the next level up for former fans of the Captain Underpants books (in fact, when I was in a second grade classroom last week, one boy was reading a Diary of a Wimpy Kid book that had circulated around his table of friends, and, when I asked if they liked Captain Underpants, too, they all quietly pulled out one of those from their desk, as well!
This, and the aforementioned Captain Underpants series, are a good way to introduce the genre of graphic novel to elementary kids.
There are a whopping 165 books, written under various titles, in the Goosebumps collections, by R. L. Stine. They are not difficult reads, and are consumed in mass quantities by kids in grades 3-6. The content is definitely suspenseful, and the covers and titles, alone, can cause anxiety in some more sensitive readers. (My own 2nd grader, who is a voracious reader, saw this series at the library, recognizing it as a popular read among kids his age, so he took one home. He read half in bed one night, and was up the rest of the night. He asked me to take it back to the library!).
They are not inappropriate reads for young children, but you will have to judge your own child's sensitivities and likes.
For upper elementary and early middle school children, or for read-aloud to the nature-lovers in your house or classroom, there is the Redwall series, by Brian Jacques. Set in the countryside, these books tell various tales of the inhabitants of a "town" set in and around an old stone wall. It has lots of things that boys love in a book: animals, adventure, sword-fighting, drama and intrigue, heroes and villains. No magic here, just animals acting like people. My oldest son was a Redwall fan as a child, and, when he moved into his first apartment, I saw his box of books carefully move along with him.
That made his teacher-mom very happy...