Girls read more than boys in almost every developed country, and it’s a big reason they have better educational outcomes.
The recent Boys’ Reading report commissioned by the National Literacy Trust (UK) found that only 1 in 4 boys read outside of the classroom.
The Commission found several factors contributed to this, including the home environment, where girls are more likely to be bought books and taken to the library and the school environment, where teachers may have a limited knowledge of contemporary and attractive texts.
These trends where girls’ dominate in reading are found everywhere in the developed world. A global study of the academic performance of 15-year-olds found that, in all but one of the 65 participating countries, more girls than boys said they read for pleasure. On average across the countries, only about half of boys said they read for enjoyment, compared to roughly three-quarters of girls.
I am the father of two boys. My eldest isn’t too bad a reader but my youngest son is a reluctant reader. He loves screen and “isn’t into books”. I’m sure that sounds familiar to some of you. I constantly ask him why he doesn’t want to read and his main reply is that he can’t find anything interesting to read.
It’s hard to compete with a computer game that is designed to be extremely captivating and is constantly rewarding the player with hits of endorphins. I sometimes think these games are teaching our kids to be easily bored, that is, anything that isn’t as fast and engaging as a computer games is going to seem boring to them.
So how then do we get kids especially boys to re-engage with books? For me the most important ingredients are:
- Make sure there are books on hand that your child can relate to, is interested in and wants to read. Funny books are an obvious starting point. The reason Mick and I wrote Mashed Myths was because 200 children heard our first story about Hercules wrestling the Hydra and loved it. They chuckled, laughed and fully engaged. We knew we had a book series that kids enjoyed and could relate to.
- Keep reading to and with your children, especially boys for as long as possible and I mean as long as possible. Reading a book together with my children was always a special time for me, a time to share, engage and enjoy.
- Talk about reading as an enjoyable pastime and be a good role model. Let your children see you read for pleasure. Also be inquisitive about what they are reading and let them have their moments telling you about the book they are reading. In other words make reading feel like a good, fun thing to do.
- Try to create some time and space for reading by getting kids off screens. Because screens are so visually rich it can be hard to convince a child that reading is just as exciting. That's were making interesting, fun books that get them truly engaged come in.
Mick and I listened to lots of kids and worked very hard to make sure Mashed Myths is a book series children, especially reluctant reader boys can relate to and want to read. We think we’ve succeeded and in our own small way are helping to close the gender divide in childhood reading levels.