Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Are Boys Reading?

In a recent post I lamented upon the poor record we have of encouraging our boys to read. I was ecstatic to get a comment from an author and blogger about her teen son and nephew, with an optimistic pronouncement about their reading.

It was far removed from my experience. (Maybe because she's from Canada?) But her feedback made me wonder.

First, I have to admit to my prejudices:
-          I've been hard pressed to find any fellow American the last three decades who reads at all.
-          I personally don't know an avid reader. (My definition…who completes at least one novel a month.)
-          Even most of my writer peers aren't avid readers.
-          Most boys haven't the attention span to read.
-          Our TV viewing is a national scandal.
-          Socially, more masculine mentors are active (sportsmen, builders…) versus readers.

Okay. So what did the studies have to say about the numbers of readers?
-          Firstly, I was shocked I couldn't find a lot of studies directed for parents, or in the media in general. Most of it was so pinheaded/wonkish, it made my eyes cross.
-          The general media articles I found were anecdotal.
-          Less than 10% of titles target boys.
-          Reading in general has dropped about twenty percent in the last fifteen years.
-          Boys prefer interactive pursuits. So should we be surprised they read less?
-          The male-female reading divide has remained consistent the last four decades.
-          Boys and girls prefer different topics and styles of voice.
-          There is generally a 30% discrepancy between reading between boys and girls.
-          After age eleven, reading by boys drops precipitously.
-          Reading education is tilted toward the interest of girls.
-          It is key to learn the love of reading early.

Is this an inclusive summary of the topic? You're kidding, right? But I read enough to decide what I found remains consistent with what I remember as a student, and observed throughout my life. That is, nothing jumped out to surprise me.

So my conclusions.
-          We need mentors who will engage boys in reading.
-          We need more Hardy Boy-like reading.
-          Turn off the damn TV, America.

Have a great week!

-R. Mac Wheeler
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  1. A couple weeks ago my 14 year old son said "hey Mom, now I see why you like reading so much. I like getting lost in another world."

    I had to go see what he was reading so I could buy more of the same type books. But I remember he went through a Diary Of A Wimpy Kid phase, and took a long time to get interested in reading again.

    I think boys find something they like, and don't care to take a chance on not liking something. Girls are more experimental in that area.

    But, there are plenty of male authors, so there must be plenty of male readers too. I have to agree we need more books geared towards boys, but boys are are more visual, and aren't as good a girls at 'imagining' certain things.

    You've got some pretty good hero's in your stories; I will see if my son could be interested.


  2. I think if I was a kid and had an Xbox I probably wouldn't have been so much into reading. Mind you I think there's a coolness to reading that boys come to as they get older. Hopefully that still holds true.

    Moody Writing

  3. I think our society has become so visual that it will be hard for this next generation to sit down and read a simple book. Makes me sad!

  4. I totally agree. I think so many books are written with girls in mind that it's hard to find books geared to boys--with enough action and plot twists to keep their attention. But the Harry Potter/Percy Jackson/Hunger Games books show that novels that take into account boy and girl readers can be extremely successful. Here's hoping that more will be published.

  5. I agree there's too much TV watching. I'm an avid reader. I average about 10 books a month, and my husband reads two or three. My son is surrounded by books and loves it when we read to him. He's 2 and already learning how to read. I do hope we can encourage to love it as much as we do.

  6. Technology is changing brains. Not a judgement. It just is. Attention spans are shorter - even in TV and Film - compare past films/shows with the mainstream today. (There are exceptions) But smart phones and a connected world gives instant gratificaton. Books are a slow-burn joy. We didn't have TV on until our children were four. And we read to them every night - an on demand through the day. Both (using phonics) were keen readers between the ages of three and four.