Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Why Boys Don't Read (as much as girls)

Giles reading one of his favorite books
Just read a piece in The Guardian this morning, and it reminded me again of the great need for books written with male readers in mind. In my experience as an author and teacher, girls will read and enjoy and reread books written by a male author, writing with boys in mind; boys, however, will not read books written for girls--period.

Colleen Mondor, a reviewer for Booklist, seems to get this right:"There are literally hundreds of Young Adult books published every year for helping teenage girls navigate the twisty landscape of growing up. The problem is that there are hardly any comparable books out there for [TEENAGE] boys to read... Why girls read more than guys? To any sane children’s book reviewer (or librarian) the answer is obvious -- writers aren’t writing as much for boys, and so boys aren’t reading."

What are your solutions to getting boys to be lifelong readers? What do you think of Michael Morpurgo's solutions to the problem? (borrowed from the Teacher Network Blog of the UK's The Guardian): 

1.Why not have a dedicated half hour at the end of every school day in every primary school devoted to the simple enjoyment of reading and writing.
2. Regular visits from storytellers, theatre groups, poets, writers of fiction and non-fiction, and librarians from the local library.
3. Inviting fathers and grandfathers, mothers and grandmothers into school to tell and read stories, to listen to children reading, one to one. The work of organisations such at Volunteer Reading Help and Reading Matters are already doing great thing to help young people and schools.
4. Ensuring that the enjoyment of literature takes precedence, particularly in the early years, over the learning of the rules of literacy, important though they are.  Children have to be motivated to want to learn to read. Reading must not be taught simply as a school exercise.
5.  Parents, fathers in particular, and teachers, might be encouraged to attend book groups themselves, in or out of the school, without children, so that they can develop a love of reading for themselves, which they can then pass on to the children.
6. Teacher training should always include modules dedicated to developing the teachers' own appreciation of literature, so that when they come to read to the children or to recommend a book, it is meant, and the children know it. To use books simply as a teacher's tool is unlikely to convince many children that books are for them, particularly those that are failing already, many of whom will be boys.
7.  The library in any school should have a dedicated librarian or teacher/librarian, be well resourced, and welcoming, the heart of every school.  Access to books and the encouragement of the habit of reading: these two things are the first and most necessary steps in education and librarians, teachers and parents all over the country know it. It is our children's right and it is also our best hope and their best hope for the future.

Visit my site for resources that might help boys love reading. Dads reading (or male disciplers where dads are not present) with their sons is more important than can be calculated. Check out my Fathers & Sons page.


  1. Which came first, chicken or egg? Boys don't read because there aren't books geared towards them or there aren't books written for them because boys are less likely to enjoy reading (and more likely to be doing outside things, physical games, etc)?

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Good question (and implication). But there are corresponding "girl" activities to the outdoor, physical activities boys do, and those don't seem to keep girls from being significantly more likely to read books. So we may be back to the original question again--a question that has been puzzling teachers, publishers, authors, parents for a couple of generations.

  4. "Go out and play" is what a lot of boys are taught. Reading? "Real" men, use their hands and build things. Is it any wonder that many men cannot even read an instructional manual...e.g."Tim, the Tool Man Taylor." If they do read, it is often limited to sports illustrated (dare I say, swimsuit edition). I believe that Fathers need to model for their sons, that reading, is okay-more than okay! Have Fathers not only be readers themselves, but read to their male children, at an early age. Get them a library card, and screen what they are checking out. Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, are two books that I grew up with, that teach a lot of values. Broaden their vocabulary, early on. Teach them to read the Bible early on. Instill in them the great stories of God at work; God working through males,as leaders. Boys can become easily distracted by all the electronics and gadgets, unless the technology is used to draw them back to reading, to using their imaginations, etc. As a male, I was encouraged to read, and read I did. I still am a reader.

  5. Do you suppose it's partly the innate "same-but-opposite" nature of girls that causes boys to look around them, see what girls are doing, then do the opposite? I read an article about how the increasing success of women on the business/economics scene is revealing a puzzling negative effect on the initiative, confidence, and productivity of our generation's men. The article's proposed solution was the inner compulsion of the God-intended difference between the societal roles of man and woman. Even young boys feel that their behaviour ought to differ from girls' behaviour; so when a boy sees girls reading books, he automatically assumes it's just not something he wants to do.

  6. Giles has great taste in books! Im sorry but this post made me laugh! Here is why, my children (boys even more so than girls!!!) acutally get rebuked for reading so much! I know that sounds unusual but it is soo true! LOL! I guess that is because of the great books they are reading? Im sorry I have to add that you Mr Bond re the main influence in their reading:) They dont blame you when they get told several times a day to 'Put that book down and....(fill in the blank!)! Lol! Thanks for the great reading youve given to our family for years!

  7. My brother loves stories, he just doesn't like physically reading a book. He prefers to listen to someone reading the story.

  8. I think teaching sons to be captivated by the world around them which God has made; the history He has written; and the varied, fascinating, and amusing personalities He has assembled to populate this history, is the first step in loving STORY. An appetite for real things breeds an appetite for understanding the workings of men and women, and God's providence. Our son, who would just as soon be working out in the shop on inventing something or exploring forest service roads in the mountain, loved his Literature classes, and listens to books on tape while mowing the lawn, traveling, and *ahem cleaning his room. He's moved through tens of thousands of pages read aloud when he doesn't have time to sit down.

  9. ...I will add I combed used book stores for un-PC books about guys on real adventures doing guys things, from the time he was a toddler (he's 19 now) and when we read aloud as family, I made sure the books were something he could relate to as an emerging man. Yep, we read all the Doug Bond books early on.