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Research > Why are boys reluctant readers?

“There is  no such thing  as  a kid  who  hates  reading. There are  kids who  love  reading & kids who  are  reading the wrong  books.” 

James  Patterson,  (author). 

Why  are  boys  reluctant  readers? 

“There is  no such thing  as  a kid  who  hates  reading. There are  kids who  love  reading & kids who  are  reading the wrong  books.”  James  Patterson,  (author). 

A  number of studies  have shown  that  boys enjoy reading  less than  girls  -  research  shows that the gap  is widening  between  them.  In  my current Year 6  cohort,  |  decided to  investigate this theory & try to  understand  why this may  be the case. 

I started  the  process  by asking the class which  children  were  reluctant/ didn’t enjoy reading.  A large  majority of boys  raised their hands,  six  in  particular,  expressing  strong,  negative opinions about  reading. 

I designed  a questionnaire which  |  discussed  with  each  boy individually.  This  report  seeks to summarise the  result of the findings  in  order to gain  a  better understanding  of the situation. 

Early Years 

“One of the  greatest gifts adults can  give - to their offspring & to their society -  is to  read to children.”  Karl  Sagan  (Astronomer). 

Evidence suggests that  parents & the home environment are essential to the early teaching  of reading  & fostering  a  love of reading. 

From  my survey,  83%  said  that as a young  child,  they were often  read to at  home.  Unfortunately, this  interaction  has ceased  now that the child  is older with  100%  of my sample stating  that no family member ever hears them  read  or takes an  interest in  any book that they may be studying  at school. 

Parental  involvement  in  a child’s literacy has  been  reported as a more  powerful force than  any other family  background  variables,  such  as social  class, family size & level  of parental  education ( Flouri  & Buchanan,  2004). Additionally,  children  whose  home experiences  promote the view that reading  is  a source of entertainment,  are  likely to  become motivated  readers. 


Family  Influence 

“Children  are  more  likely to continue to  be  readers  in  homes where  books & reading  are valued” (Baker & Scher,  2002). 

Of the  boys  surveyed,  100%  stated  that they had  never seen their parents  read  at  home,  with several  stating  “they’re too  busy.” 

100%  also  stated that there were no  books or magazines  in the  home & they were  never encouraged  to  read,  not even  comics. The Organisation for Economic  Co-Operation  & Development  (0.E.C.D),  2010,  reports that parents’  engagement with their children’s reading  life has a  positive  impact on  their children’s  reading. This is  indeed  borne out in  my survey. 

Reading  & Attainment 

Evidence suggests that there  is a  positive  relationship between  reading frequency,  reading enjoyment & attainment (Clark &  Douglas,  2011).  It  is argued that there is a  positive  link between positive attitudes towards  reading  & achieving  well  in  reading  assessments. 

Results for reading  attainment for the Year 6  boys surveyed  would  support this  belief with  66% falling  into the “Average”  category whilst 34%  were “Below Average”. This data is based  on the latest  Lexplore Reading  Assessments. 

My survey data states that  84%  of the boys only ever read  in  school,  “when they have to,”  & never read  at home.  Surprisingly,  100%  strongly believe that it’s important to  be a good  reader. 

Answers given  include: 

“It's very important  to read  because you  need  it as a skill to get on  life.” 

“It’s very important that you can  read well for your future, for getting  a good job,  dealing  with Emails & writing formally for work.” 


Possibly a more fundamental  problem  is that boys may feel that liking to  read  is somehow not “very masculine”  or “cool.” When  putting this synopsis to the Year 6  boys, this belief was  held  by 66%,  resulting in some interesting  comments: 

“Reading isn’t what ‘normal  boys’  do - it’s boring!” 

“Reading  is a  ‘girly thing’  & more for gentle boys,  not  ‘boy boys!” 

“It’s not cool to read.” 

The above comments lead  us to question why such  beliefs are held? Why do  boys see reading  as essentially a feminine activity?  Could  it be because the exposure to  reading of primary school boys is often  lead  by female primary school teachers,  rather than  male? 

Outside Influences 

When  questioned about their dislike of reading, the Year 6 boys gave responses including: 

“Reading is not a good  use of my time -  I’ve got better things to do.” 

100%  stated that they only read,  “when they have to,”  & would be embarrassed  if their friends saw them  read outside of class. 

Reasons given for not reading included outside activities & clubs,  particularly football & Computer games,  especially XBox.  Interestingly,  only one of the six boys had a  cut-off time for gaming on school  nights.  Other distractions included WhatsApp conversations & YouTube. 

What material might encourage boys to read? 

“There is no such thing as a child who hates to read. There are only children who have not found the right book.”  Frank Serafini,  (author). 

Having spoken with Year 6  reluctant readers,  it appears that there  may be some ways to encourage them to read. 

We need to find themes/topics that would  interest them.  Some of these include: 


Judy  Bloome, famous American  author,  said: 

“Let children  read whatever they want & then talk about it with them.” 

Reluctant  readers need to  be provided with  books & articles that they can  & want to  read.  For example,  information texts relating to topics they are  interested  in, newspaper articles & funny stories.  Surely some reading  is better than  no  reading  at all?