According to a 2015 study completed by the National Literacy Trust, only 47.8% of boys say that they enjoy reading very much or quite a lot, compared to 61.2% of girls saying the same thing. (http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/assets/0003/1643/Young_people_s_reading_2015_-_Final.pdf). This is a worrying statistic because it proves what librarians and teachers have known for many years, that it is more difficult to get boys excited about books! Although we don’t know the specific reason for this, we do know that in the time it takes for boys to get from Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 4, they enjoy reading significantly less and make far less time for it outside of school. Sometimes when we think about boys and reading, it seems that all hope is lost but there are some very simple things that we can do at home and in school to help boys see that reading is enjoyable:
- Embrace e-readers – children these days are far more comfortable with technology than we will ever be. Young people (especially boys) feel that the act of reading on a tablet or e-reader is made all the more exciting because technology is involved. Also, because you cannot immediately see what somebody is reading on a tablet, it is comforting for children to know that they can read whatever they like without being judged it is too young or easy so they can build up their reading skills at their own pace.
- Don’t judge reading habits – all reading is good. This is something that young people are not told enough so they get worried that they are not reading at the ‘correct age’. According to Amazon, Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney and the Tom Gates series by Liz Pichon are suitable for children age 8 - 11 but they are funny, exciting and great starter books for those readers who are not yet comfortable with large swathes of words and no pictures. The same is true of comics and graphic novels. Don’t assume that because they have pictures and short bursts of conversation, that they are meant for young readers. Any kind of reading will develop skills and become a gateway for more complexity.
- Know what boys like – Young Adult literature has never been so good. Gone are the days when boys had to resort to reading Treasure Island or The Hardy Boys over and over again in order to find some exciting stories. Now, there is a huge choice of modern, well written books that appeal to all. Boys can read books about football, pirates, dystopian worlds, vampires, robots, mean teachers, gangster grannies, rock stars, Greek gods, inter space explorers and so many more. This means that everybody finally has a true choice rather than having to pick based on a skimpy list of ‘boy’s books’.
- Teach by example – if a child never sees their parents or teachers reading, then why should they start? Take your children to the library, spend an afternoon reading alongside them or even with them. Teachers should know what their students are reading and tell them about what inspired their reading habits. Talk to your children about what they like to watch on television or what games they like to play and explore similar themes in books with them. You will not only show your child that reading should be a regular and enjoyable experience, you might even discover a whole new world of books for yourself!
Written by - Rosie Scallon
Library Services Officer, Norfolk Education Services.