The National Literacy Trust in Britain has come up with a report on boys’ reading. The outlook is not good.
An astonishing three-quarters of British schools say boys do not do as well in reading as girls. By age seven, there is already a gender gap of seven points in the proportion of pupils who read at or above grade level; by GCSE, the gap has doubled to fourteen points. Even when controlling for social class, a gap of ten points remains. The majority of boys say they enjoy reading only a little or not at all; only a quarter of oys read outside of class each day. Girls are performing equally to or outperforming boys at every GCSE subject except construction. While equal performance is awesome, girls’ outperformance of boys at everything is rather depressing. What’s worse is that Britain is one of the countries with the lowest gender gap in education.
The report proposes several reasons for the gap. The largely female teachers may create a lack of positive male role models for reading. Boys may respond to the curriculum differently: some people suggest that boys tend to prefer multiple-choice to essays and open-ended discussion to close questioning about texts. Teachers may be less aware of the kinds of books boys tend to prefer and less likely to teach them in the classroom. Boys may not be taught about the importance of reading for enjoyment.
Similarly, boys aren’t getting the necessary support at home to learn to love to read. Girls are more likely than boys to get books as gifts. Fathers who don’t read are less likely to have sons that read. At the same time, the culture tends to encourage girls to read and boys not to read. It’s cooler for girls to read, while for boys it’s considered nerdy and feminized. Boys are more likely than girls to believe that a reader is boring or a geek; girls are more likely to believe a reader is happy, clever, and likely to do well in life. Nineteen percent of boys would be embarrassed if their friends saw them reading. Boys are more likely than girls to say that they don’t go to the library because their friends don’t go. One boy in five says reading is more of a girl thing.
Boys and girls ahve very different media consumption. Boys are more likely than girls to prefer watching TV to reading. Boys are more likely to read comics, nonfiction, manuals, and newspapers; girls are more likely to read fiction, magazines, text communication with friends (such as IMs, social networking sites, text messages, etc.), and poems. Girls tend to prefer adventure, horror, romance, and animal books, while boys like sports, science fiction and fantasy, and war/spy books.