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The way to get your kids to read

Step 1: Unplug them. Step 2: Give them solitude.

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"Mom, there's a lot more to life than reading," my 14-year-old son said as he rushed in from school one afternoon and texted another reading-averse boy down the block.

"That's a girl's book," he later said when I asked him to spend some quiet time with "Jane Eyre." "And, anyway, I only read at night."

So when my local library offered a talk on why boys don't read and what parents can do about it, I signed up. Many of my neighbors had the same idea: We came, desperate for advice on how to get our boys off the technology and into the books.

Here's what the reading expert said: Boys don't read because they don't like stories, poetry, or tales about relationships. They prefer nonfiction – science, math, and instructional booklets. He suggested parents entice boys with material they enjoy such as sports statistics, instead of sports stories.

Several audience members nodded in agreement. Yes, their sons fit that description. They probably couldn't read Robinson Crusoe, but they could zip through a LEGO manual.

Call me a renegade, but I'm not falling for this latest theory. Several decades ago, my brother fell in love with Cathy and Heathcliff and never once questioned the gender-correctness of "Wuthering Heights." He plowed through Jane Austen, and continues to be a serious reader today. What's changed?

With my suburban house serving as an anthropological study on the behavior of teenage boys, I've constructed my own theory: Boys don't read because they are never alone. Many years ago C.S. Lewis, in his autobiography "Surprised by Joy," said: "I am a product of long corridors, empty sunlit rooms, upstairs indoor silences, attics explored in solitude…. Also, of endless books."


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