Yes. Even three- and four-year-olds show differences. Here are some differences worth pointing out, although these vary from child to child.
- Boys—even preschool boys—prefer different genres of reading from girls. Boys like “how to” books read to them—how a car engine works or how a pitcher holds the ball for various throws, for example. Boys often prefer books with humor or books that show a boy being mischievous. Boys like science fiction and fantasy. Boys as young as three might prefer different reading material from girls of the same age.
- Girls like fairy tales more than boys. Many fairy tales have girls as the main subjects—Cinderella, Goldilocks, Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White. Don’t be surprised if boys are bored by fairy tales. Fairy tales originated in a time without bikes, jets, video games and Angry Birds. Fairy tales can seem pretty dull to a three-year-old who regularly plays games on a smart phone or on wii.
- Boys like visual aids to help understanding—a diagram of how an elevator works, photos of Hurricane Sandy, or cartoons, for example. They may prefer to have nonfiction read to them more than girls do. They like manuals and the diagram directions for Legos.
- Boys like to see boy characters, or if not boys, then men they might want to become when they are big. A boy who likes flying might enjoy a book about a sixteen-year-old boy learning to fly. A four-year-old boy beginning baseball practice might like books about boys playing baseball or a biography of a slugger like Babe Ruth when he was a kid. Boys want boy characters doing boy things, just as girls want girl characters doing all things.
- Boys like fiction crammed with action. They like books heavy on plot and low on emotion. Girls like these books too, but they also like books about relationships more than boys do.
- Boys like books with useful knowledge they can share with other boys, the kind of knowledge other boys will find appealing. “Hey Grandpa! Do you know the first team that ever won a Super Bowl? I do.”
If you are reading this blog, you are probably a mother or female teacher of young children. Your first choice of material to read to your child may not be the same as a little boy would choose. If your child is interested in science, maybe reading an article in National Geographic or Popular Mechanics makes sense. You don’t have to read books. Magazines and newspapers are fine. The daily Charlie Brown or Garfield comic might appeal more than a “Jack and the Beanstalk” story.
Boys love technology. Figure out his passions and search for information on the internet. Even if he can’t read yet, he will recognize that reading would be a useful skill to access information he loves. Or help him write an email to someone and then help him to read the response. Boys like useful reading.
Lastly, can you get Dad or Grandpa or another man to model reading? If a boy sees the girls and women in his life reading, but not the teen boys or the men, he might think that reading is not a boy’s activity. Try to get a man to read to your child regularly.