Boys are reading far less than girls, and that needs to change. Studies suggest that due to increased testosterone levels, boys get an overdeveloped right brain which increases interest in movement and overview, but makes consistent focus on a page of text harder. In her book 21st Century Boys, author Sue Palmer outlines this theory. According to Palmer, by and large, boys tend to have a harder time not skipping pages and remaining dedicated. Often, with challenge comes aversion.
Is there anything that can be done to change these statistics?
As a child, my parents going out of their way to expose me to reading in any setting I found interesting. My Dad and I would discuss readings together ever since I could make out my first sentences. I developed a very strong reading habit because they never said “No” to what I wanted to read and we always talked about what I was reading. On top of that, my parents were always reading.
That’s exactly how the problem seems to be remedied. Young boys are more likely to read if they see older role models enjoying the activity, they become more likely to overcome some of the inherent difficulties. “Don’t underestimate the power of example,” says Susan Elkin, author of Unlocking the Reader in Every Child. She continues;
Boys need to see older males reading joyfully – otherwise they risk writing it off as a “girly” thing. So that’s down to dads and other male role models. Primary schools – female dominated environments, usually – should regularly invite in male authors, librarians and volunteers to talk about reading and share books. A footballer with a passion for books would be good, for instance.
According to Elkin, perceptions of masculinity and femininity play a huge role in a child’s willingness and desire to read. This could obviously spark an entire discussion about gender and gender norms, but what it comes down to is representation. Boys, in Elkin’s research, feel the need to be represented and portrayed as readers.
Encouraging young readers to pursue their interests without enforcing certain books is paramount as well. Make sure all the young boys in your life have a reader to look up to.
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