Boys and reading

A recent article in the WSJ “How to Raise Boys Who Read” highlights some of the issues at stake when it comes to boys and reading. The Center on Education Policy reports that substantially more boys than girls score below the proficiency level on the annual National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test.

Why don’t boys read well? Is it because they don’t read enough? And why don’t they read enough? It is because they can’t find books they like to read? One solution has been to offer books that pander to boys “untutored tastes” which means “books that exploit [their] love of bodily functions and gross-out humor.” The fact that boys spend more time “plugged in” than girls do is another culprit of why boys are not reading well. The author of “How to Raise Boys Who Read” says the secret to get boys to read is to limit their access to electronic media. While I agree that not pandering to boys “untutored tastes” and imposing limits to electronic media can only help the situation I do no think those responses are going to get boys to become readers.

I suggest we respect and cater to the differences in how boys and girls become readers.  I draw distinctions between girl readers and boy readers with trepidation. Like it or not, gender can make a difference when it comes to what children like to read. Kids need to relate to the stories they meet with characters who provide them with a vision of who they are and who they might become. In a perfect world I want boys and girls reading great stories regardless of the main character’s gender, but in the real world I want children reading, period. Girls usually cross the gender divide easier than boys and some children don’t need to identify with the character’s gender but for those that do, I list books with spirited boy protagonists and books with spirited girl protagonists in Reading Together in the 102 and Beyond section.

Respect a boy’s taste in the books they want to read. Many boys prefer nonfiction, books with facts, biographies, history, how-to books, or books of science. The goal is to make sure every boy meets his “home-run” book. The love of that book will lead to the next book, and the next and the next. But without that first home-run read, the battle to get boys to read continues and continues and continues.


Reach Diane Frankenstein at:

facebook LinkedIn

© 2024 Diane Frankenstein. All Rights Reserved.