Moms Columns & Blogs

To get a boy to read, go for gross

I never thought I'd be the sort of mom to buy a book called “Sweet F-a-r-t-s” for my child. I never thought I'd invest in a series called “Dumb Bunnies.” I recently purchased both for Christmas.

Being a book lover and a journalist, I always imagined I'd take the literary high road as a parent and that my boy would want to read (or be read) what I had as a kid: “Charlotte's Web,” “The Giving Tree” and other classics. I never thought I'd have a reluctant reader for a child, yet that's the position I'm in with my 6-year-old son, who likes books but struggles with reading and writing.

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About a year ago, when he was in kindergarten, he discovered the “Captain Underpants” series by Dav Pilkey about two mischief-making elementary schoolers who are forever in trouble with their principal. I probably wouldn't have picked these out on my own, illustrated, as they are, with a bald-headed man in underwear, and boasting “tons o fun,” “lots o laffs,” and titles such as “Captain Underpants and the Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy.” But my son had found out about them in his after-school program, where a few older kids were thumbing through dog-eared copies, giggling. We now own the entire series. In my opinion, any book is better than no book and far better than TV and video games.

My son, apparently, is no different from the norm. According to Borders books buyer Susan Aiken, “You can't go wrong with potty humor” for beginning-reader boys. Anything gross, funny, fantasy or chock-full of pictures works because “it's not as difficult to read.”

There are definitely worse things than spending an hour reading a 216-page illustrated book with a hysterically laughing kid who's missing his front teeth, and then, after he gulps down a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, half of which ends up on his face, having him ask me to read it again.

My boy may not be reading on his own – yet – but he recently asked for a diary. Not a journal – a diary, on the cover of which he added in pen: “fo a wimpy kib.” I'd read what he's written inside, but it's locked. Maybe that's for the best.