When Boys Hate to Read

I included jokes into Fun Friday activities by asking kids to choose their favorite 3 jokes or riddles and then write down why they were funny.

For P-3, No Lexile level available
Ask any parent or teacher how most boys feel about books and reading and you’ll get the same answer – they’re not very interested! In fact, many boys say they hate to read! This week on my You Tube channel, Creating Smart Readers (link to the right), I read The Araboolies of Liberty Street. I first discovered this book when I was taking a university class called Boys and Books. It was listed with many others in the course textbook. I purchased a set of 10 books to use with the third and fourth grade students in my reading groups using the Read-Aloud guide that I created. Boys comprised most of my student groups and, instead of their usual lament that they hate reading, they actually loved it! The trick to enticing boys to read is to find books and stories that they like.

Here is a free downloadable partial Read-Aloud guide. The Araboolies of Liberty Street Partial Guide  The complete guide is included in my jumbo book, Creating Smart Readers, link to the right.

Benefits of Reading Aloud to Boys

Studies show that boys are up to 2 years behind girls in Reading.  No wonder they hate reading – it is always too hard for them.  But, we can turn it around by reading great “boy” stories to them. This link is to a 2018 article in Psychology Today regarding boys and reading.


Boys and girls pay an emotional price for lagging behind their peers in Reading. Here is the link to a previous Blog that I wrote on that topic. Poor Readers Pay an Emotional Price

So here’s to squashing the dislike of reading and to getting the boys excited about books today! I am listing some books that boys like.  If you read the books in the way described in the Read-Aloud guides, you will:

  • Debunk the boys hate reading idea
  • Arouse curiosity in books
  • Get boys excited about books
  • Build vocabulary
  • Motivate boys to read on their own
  • Enhance thinking skills

Here are a few books that I think boys will like.  Please watch reading levels if you want your children to read on their own.  Since some books do not have available Lexile levels (reading levels), please look at them first. Better yet, read them with your child and talk about them first. Remember, you are their first and best reading guide. They will mimic the way you think out loud when you read to them.

  • Mighty, Mighty Construction Site (P-1, Lexile 710) – look at the chart on the right for the disparity in recommended grade/age and the reading level.
  • Cowboy Camp (P-2)
  • If I Built a Car (Gr 3-5)
  • I Stink (P-3, Lexile 300)
  • If I Were a Kid During the Civil War (Gr 2-4, Lexile 630)
  • Choose Your Own Adventure Series (Gr 4+)
  • Matt Christopher Sports Series (usually Gr 3/4+)

Boys Love All Things Military

For 2-5, Lexile 990
Whether they were boys who thought they hated reading or not – all the boys in my elementary and high school groups (especially those who struggled most with reading) were enthralled with books about the military.  We split the period with a skill lesson and time for independent reading in comfy camp chairs that I put in a quiet corner. The military books were always chosen first.

For the best result in reading Dazzle Ships, I would suggest that an adult read to and with a child and talk about the illustrations and ideas together.  Notice that this book has quite a high reading level.

paperbackMy paperback book, Be a Reading Hero, is available now at https://www.amazon.com/dp/171803525X.

I hand picked every picture book inside and each one includes a detailed Read-Aloud Guide.

Show kids how exciting books can be when you read and talk about them together.  You are the model, the guide, who is  “thinking out loud” when reading.  Your kids will mimic as they, too, become smart-thinking readers.

The books in the Magic Tree House series are always a good choice. They are generally good for grades 1/2 – 4 with Lexiles that range from 450-580, but the Fact Checker books are higher in Lexile levels. Please, please, please know your child’s reading level and help them choose books appropriately which will encourage better engagement in reading.  For struggling kids, I often recommend a lower leveled book that will make the reading easier – hence, build their confidence and pride in completing a book.


Boys Get Excited About Telling Jokes

The National Geographic Kids joke books are my all-time favorite for kids – especially for boys. The suggested grade level and Lexile levels vary from grade 2 to 7 and 400  to 740 Lexile levels.  Here’s what I say about that.

In my 18 years in the elementary school, I purchased hundreds of these books for my Reading Room and for gifts for the children.  They were especially well received by my 4th grade boys.  I was lucky enough to receive a large grant to purchase materials for my high school Reading Room and included many of these joke books in my order.  The teens loved them too – especially the boys.  This link will bring you to another Blog that I posted earlier. Using Jokes and Riddles

One reason I believe joke books are so beneficial is that they are short to read (especially for struggling readers who shy away from longer texts). Also, they make kids think.  Young children and teens have to “get” the joke in order to think it is funny.  That skill requires making an inference – to think about the hidden meaning of the joke.  Why is it so funny?  I included jokes into Fun Friday activities by asking kids to choose their favorite 3 jokes or riddles and then write down why they were funny. We finished the period by sharing our jokes and writing.

Please feel free to contact me about any concerns or questions you may have about your boy readers. I hope that the Read-Aloud guides are helpful and I hope that you and your boys love them.

“Happy Reading!


Don’t be fooled – picture books are not just for little kids. They offer a wealth of learning opportunities if read to kids properly.

Cuban folktale
For P-3, Lexile Level 720


Folktales Matter

Folktales are fun and beneficial to children in that they:

  • Reinforce the oral storytelling tradition
  • Teach about other cultures
  • Provide life lessons

On my You Tube channel, Creating Smart Readers (link to the right), I am reading, Martina, the Beautiful Cockroach today.  This is a really fun story to listen to and to talk about.  A cockroach? Really? Think of the fun you and your children can have talking about that critter!  This is a Cuban folktale that can lead to lots of activities for children who are quarantined at home right now. A downloadable partial Read-Aloud Guide to this story is included free here. Martina the Beautiful Cockroach  The complete and detailed guide is part of my new Kindle edition of The Read-Aloud Workout (link to purchase at an introductory low price is to the right).

Know Your Child’s Reading Level

Please notice that the recommended grade level for Martina is for children P-3 but the Lexile level (reading level) of this story is actually way too high for kids of that grade.  According to the chart to the right, 720 is for average readers at the beginning of grade 5.  That is why I always remind parents to read and discuss picture books with their kids before letting them go off and read on their own. This way, children can be guided to find their way around tricky words and hidden ideas in stories. Don’t be fooled – picture books are not just for little kids. They offer a wealth of learning opportunities if read to kids properly.

Folktales from Around the World

Another story I read on my You Tube channel is The Dancing Turtle (P-4, Lexile 500).  It is a folktale from Brazil.  I am going to list some good folktales from around the world that you and your children might enjoy.  Read-Aloud guides are available for all of these stories in my jumbo book, Creating Smart Readers, How to Read 50+ Picture Books to Kids 4-10 (link on right).

  • Mariana and the Merchild (K-3, no Lexile available) is a folktale from Chile.
  • The Blind Hunter (1-2, no Lexile available) is a tale from Africa.
  • Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters (P-3, Lexile 790) is a tale from Africa.
  • The Rough-Face Girl (3+, Lexile 540) is a folktale from Africa
  • The Old Woman Who Lived in a Vinegar Bottle (P-3, no Lexile available) is a folktale from England.
  • Rechenka’s Eggs (P-3, Lexile 610) is a tale from Russia.

513SE1X368L._SY431_BO1,204,203,200_[1]I am including The Caged Birds of Phnom Phen (K-2, no Lexile available) here for a few reasons.  Although it is not really a folktale, it gives an insight into Viet Nam through the eyes of a small child wishing to get out of the poverty in which her family lives. It also shows how this gullible child is almost tricked by a cunning merchant. This can be a great lesson for children today who are inundated by clever marketing that can lure them in at every turn.

Also, I am very proud to have received a signed copy of this book after I mentioned it in a published article that I wrote with a colleague.

Through folktales and other wonder picture book stories, we can enhance the listening comprehension, curiosity, and knowledge of our children. They can be step stools for our young children who are learning about the world and its people. I hope to see you over at You Tube later for our story.

I would love to hear about your favorite picture book stories and the activities you and your children are doing after reading them. Please subscribe to this Blog and to my You Tube channel so you get notification every time I post something new.

“Happy Reading!”




Let’s Visit Italy

After reading, talk to your kids about the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Ask them how it pertains to the way Pippo was perceived by the townspeople. 

For 1-3, Lexile Level 770
After enjoying, Pippo the Fool, let’s visit Italy. What a great activity for older kids when we are all staying home these days. I read this great historic and true story out loud on my You Tube channel, Creating Smart Readers (link on the right).  After listening to the story, there are lots of activities you can do to educate and delight your children. The free, downloadable Read-Aloud guide here Pippo the Fool Guide will break the book down into sections that include Reading Skills, Tricky Words and Word Work, Discussion Questions, and After-Reading Activities.

Where I live on Long Island, we are into week three of self-isolation with the schools still closed.  So I’ve included a few videos here about the dome in our story.  You can also search and view many virtual tours of parts of Italy and watch them with your children according to your interests. Since the read-aloud story is a bit long for very young kiddos, the first video below is an easier depiction of how Pippo designed and built the dome. You can adjust the after-reading activities so kids of all ages can enjoy them together.


Visit Italy with a Virtual Tour

This link retells our story and shows drawings of how Pippo designed the dome..

Here is a link to how the dome was built.

Here are pictures and information about the dome in Florence, Italy.


More facts about Italy, the country.

Italy facts: check out this beautiful country!

After-Reading Activities

After reading, talk to your kids about the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Ask them how it pertains to the way Pippo was perceived by the townspeople.  Also, have some fun with building with blocks or Legos.  Encourage your children to design and draw a building.  How about an invention that would make their lives better.  Perhaps they can present it to the family after dinner.  The Read-Aloud Guide (downloadable above) gives many ideas.

Know Your Child’s Reading Level

If you have the book, please note that the Lexile level (reading level) on amazon.com is 770. That is the suggested reading level for an average reader near the end of Grade 5.  This is why I always suggest that you use a Read-Aloud Guide to read, discuss, and analyze a book first with your children before allowing them to go off and read alone.  The level of background knowledge, word knowledge, and ability to find hidden meaning of a 5th grader is quite higher than that of the recommended grade 1-3 grader for this book.  Please, please, please, know your child’s reading level and help guide them to be smarter readers by reading aloud to them. Picture books are so very tricky that way – they are targeted to the very young when, in fact, some stories are much more difficulty to understand.  We can help them by using Read-Aloud Guides.

Please stay inside and stay safe.  Thanks to the Internet, we can enjoy the world safely from our homes.  I would love to hear from you about what your children built, drew, or invented after hearing this great story. “Happy Reading!”

Are Your Kids Bored Yet?

My goal is to add three (or more) stories each week.  At the same time I will post a Read-Aloud Guide for most of them on this Blog. 

Are your kids bored yet with school closings? I hope that my read-aloud stories will help. These are the three stories I am going to read on my You Tube Channel, Creating Smart Readers,  for next week starting Monday, March 23, 2020. By now we have all be cooped up inside our homes for at least a week so let’s do something new. I will read a story out loud so kids see a new face and hear a different voice. They are missing their classmates and teacher. Parents might be working from home. Here are some ideas for the kids that I hope you will enjoy.

The Stories

First. Mingo the Flamingo will take us with a lost flamingo who is trying to fly back home. I will give some ideas on activities for kids to do after the story. It will be helpful if you have a craft box ready.  Do you have any glue, paper, crayons, pieces of fabric, yarn, leftover buttons or feathers? Kids will be encouraged to try to make their own flying machine – either with a paper drawing or using random objects.

Next, The Dancing Turtle takes us to Brazil and the rain forest. Can you spare some time after the story to help your kids do some research on the rain forest and the country? Can you find a map or globe to show them where Brazil is located? Do you have  music available so the kids can do their own dancing?

Finally, Mighty, Mighty Construction Site shows how teamwork and persistence can get the job done. After the story, I will suggest that kids create their own construction site with toy cars and trucks if you have them.  If not, can you help them make some drawings?  Let’s help our kids use their imaginations.

The Read-Aloud Guides

I created Read-Aloud Guides from my own lesson plans in school where I used high-quality picture book stories like these in my Reading Lessons for all grades. Of course, the level of the story is based on the grades and ages of the children.  I used picture book lessons for every grade level from one to 12.

In these Read-Aloud Guides, you can choose as much or as little to use with your children as you wish.  They include reading skills (ie. cause/effect, problem/solution, making inferences, making predictions), vocabulary/tricky words and grammar, analyzing illustrations, before-reading motivators, during-reading questions, and after-reading activities including graphic organizers, writing, crafts, research, and day trips.  We can’t do any day trips during this virus lock-down, but there are many virtual tours available online.

Below are the downloadable Read-Aloud Guides for these stories.


The Dancing Turtle

Mightly consruction site guide

I hope you and your children are uplifted by these stories and that you find the Read-Aloud Guides useful. There is a jumbo book of guides available to purchase on the right. My goal is to add three (or more) stories each week.  At the same time I will post a Read-Aloud Guide for most of them on this Blog.  Please contact me on my You Tube Channel or here with any questions or suggestions and let me know how your children are enjoying the stories. Please   “Happy Reading!”

Sneak Preview of upcoming stories:

Beware of Pic Books

Therefore … unless your child is 7 years old, in the middle or end of the second grade, and is an average reader, THIS BOOK IS TOO HARD to read alone. Confusing? Yes. And that is why I write about picture books.

Everyone who knows me, is fully aware of how much I love, love, love picture books. I’ve used them to teach my reading lessons for 20 years, have written volumes about them, and have used them as the theme for workshops for hundreds of fellow teachers. However, parents need to be aware of some readability issues in them. I believe that they are too often advertised for children who are not skilled enough to read them and too young to really understand them.

Lexile Level 460AD (end grade 2)

Wow, that is quite a bold claim! Let’s take, for example, the beloved Eric Carle story, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. This is a book given at baby showers, used in school to teach colors, counting, and the metamorphosis of the butterfly, enjoyed as favorite bedtime stories, and handed to kids to go off and read on their own.

But, here’s the thing. The book is too hard for kids to read on their own – especially the targeted consumers – Preschool to Kindergarten aged kids. These days, school children are given reading tests that rank their reading ability in Lexile levels. Simply stated, this is a number range that matches a book to a child based on his or her reading ability. Please refer to the chart on the right and please find out your child’s recent Reading Level.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar, as noted above, is recommended for children in Preschool to Kindergarten (ages 2-5). The Lexile level for this story, however, is 460 AD. Looking at our chart, you can see that 460 fits at the high end of an average reader at the end of grade 2 (300-499). AD means Adult Directed which means guidance by an adult for an average reader. Not every kindergarten kid has yet mastered reading – especially boys who typically tend to read a year or more below girls. Also, children who are only 2 to 5 years old lack the background knowledge and vocabulary skills needed to read and understand a book that is rated for kids at the end of grade 2.

Therefore … unless your child is 7 years old, in the middle or end of the second grade, and is an average reader, THIS BOOK IS TOO HARD to read alone. Confusing? Yes. And that is why I write about picture books.

In my opinion, the best way to introduce these wonderful stories is to read them aloud to your kids using the “interactive method.” I will talk more about this in future blogs along with ways to use picture books to make your kids smarter – even into the high elementary grades. More about that late, too.

Here’s the lowdown on readability of another current favorite, Mighty, Mighty Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker:

Lexile Level 710AD (beginning grade 5)
  • Targeted to Preschool to Grade 1 (ages 3-6)
  • Lexile level is 710AD (beginning grade 5 average reader)

Whoa!!! Even for a very advanced youngster, this is a big stretch. Even with adult supervision, this is asking a lot from a small child.

So, this is what I suggest that you do. Read the book first with your child using the “interactive reading” method. This is when a parent or adult reads a story aloud, then stops to question, wonder about, and talk about a story and its words with a child. Below, I included a Read-aloud Guide for this story so you can see what I mean. Use as many or as few of the discussion ideas as you wish. Read the book first and use Post-it notes to mark the places where you want to stop and talk. This kind of reading gets kids excited and curious so it’s best not to use as a bedtime story. Rather, set aside some time before or after dinner to enjoy reading and talking together. Keep it natural and never make it seem like a school lesson. Keep it light hearted and fun.


  • Look at the cover and title.  Guess what the story will be about.
  • Do you recognize some of the trucks? What are their jobs in construction?
  • What time of day do you think it is?  What makes you think so?
  • Open to the first page.  Why do you think the words, Mighty, Mighty Construction Site, are so big? What time of day is it? Look closely at the building.

Words to Talk About:

“ight” word families. How many can you name? Notice the spelling of “height.” Eager, stare, awe, immense, intense, massive, nimble, duo, drainage, hauled, concrete, churns

  • What’s another word for construct or construction? (build/building)
  • The trucks drive full “steam.” What other steam is there?
  • Onomatopoeia: HHONNK Beep-Beep
  • Alliteration: rolling, rumbling, revving
  • What else churns? Did you ever “churn” butter? Find out how.


  • Look carefully at each truck and talk about what it is doing
  • What does it mean when there is “ZZZZ” next to a truck?
  • Look at the word, s-t-r-e-t-c-h and talk about why the author wrote it that way. Do you stretch when you wake up?
  • What do you think the new job will be?
  • Are you excited to start a new job?
  • Which truck would you like to drive?
  • What do you think is coming down the road?
  • What do you think people did to build things before there were trucks?
  • How could they move all that dirt and rocks?


  • Make your own plans to build a structure using trucks and a sand box or dirt pile.
  • Draw a picture of something you want to build. What equipment do you need? Would you need some helpers? For what?
  • Make a list of words in the “ight” family.
  • Build something with blocks or Legos.
  • Visit a construction site with a parent.
  • Talk about how the “team” worked together to get the job done.
  • What would happen if the trucks did not cooperate with each other?
  • What time is it at the end of the book. How do you know?
  • Draw pictures of what happened throughout the day on the construction site. Go in order.
  • Do you know any people who work in construction? Ask them what their job is as part of the “team.”
  • What can you construct out of clay?
  • Get some trucks and cars and play with them.
  • With a parent, get some books about pyramids to find out how they were built without trucks.

When you start to read and talk this way with your kids, you will notice that they soon start to become more curious about other books – especially when they are reading on their own. After your interactive reading sessions, them go off and read the books on their own and you will be pleasantly surprised to observe the way they mimic your way of reading aloud. Ask them to read to you. You have become their reading role model. You have shown them how to think smart about books.

Please, please, please be aware of your child’s reading level and beware of books that look like fun but are too hard for kids to read on their own. Be their guide and show them first. Be their Reading Hero! Until next time, “Happy Reading!”

Subscribe to this Blog using the form to the right and receive e-mail notifications of each new post. I’d love to hear from you about how you and your child are doing with reading and thinking smart about books.