Posted in literacy, reading, teaching

How do I switch it on? The challenge of getting boys to read books

It has long been challenging to get children to put down their games controller and pick up a book. Since the earliest days of Atari and Sega Megadrive, it has been seemingly impossible to drag children away from some kind of colourful flashing box.

Boys in particular tend to enjoy reading less, read less often and think less positively about reading than girls. Similarly, older pupils tend to be more disengaged from reading in terms of enjoyment and attitudes when compared to younger pupils. However, when one combines gender and key stages in the analyses, it becomes evident that teenage boys, particularly those in Key Stage (KS) 4, have a particular aversion to reading.

Only 26.2% of boys in KS4 say that they enjoy reading either very much or quite a lot. This is nearly half of the number of KS3 boys who say that they enjoy reading (41.6%) and nearly a third of the number of KS2 boys who say that they enjoy reading (65.5%). This is also nearly half the number of girls in KS4 (42.5%) who enjoy reading either very much or quite a lot.

Teenage boys also read less frequently than their younger peers, with over a third of KS2 boys (35.4%) saying that they read every day, compared with only a fifth of KS4 boys (20.5%).
Half as many KS4 as KS2 boys say that they read fiction outside of class at least once a month. KS4 boys are also less likely than their KS2 counterparts to read poems (8.7% vs. 29.8%) and non-fiction (27% vs. 43.9%). However, older boys are nearly twice as likely to read newspapers compared with younger boys.

Teenage boys think less positively about reading compared with younger boys. Only 14.2% of boys in KS4 agree with the statement that “reading is cool”, compared with 58.1% of boys in KS2. At the same time, however, KS4 boys are more likely to agree with the statement that “I cannot find anything to read that interests me”, compared with KS2 boys (35% vs. 26%). KS4 boys are also more likely to agree with the statement that they “prefer watching television to reading”, with over two thirds of KS4 boys agreeing with the statement, compared with just over half of KS2 boys.

Today, boys have an exponential quantity of media to play with, engage with or sometimes, just watch. So how can teachers, as role models and educators, instil that spark of excitement that we used to get from dusty old hard back library books?

So how can we get them reading?

Boys prefer books that:

  • Are plot driven.
  • Have an edge to them.
  • Are controversial.
  • Are funny.
  • Have powerful ideas.
  • Appeal to their sense of mischief.
  • Are part of a series.
  • Reflect their ambitions.
  • Have great descriptive, atmospheric writing.
  • Have been made into a movie.

Take a look at our terrific guidance and templates to help you encourage boys to read.

But let us not forget about teenage girls

While teenage boys are a particular concern when it comes to reading engagement, teenage girls can also present a challenge. While 80.1% of KS2 girls say that they enjoy reading either very much or quite a lot, only half as many KS4 girls (42.5%) say that they enjoy reading. Similarly, while half of KS2 girls (50%) read daily, only half as many KS4 girls (25.4%) say that they read every day.

Three times as many KS2 girls as KS4 girls see reading as cool (69.5% vs. 21.8%). However, older girls are significantly less likely than younger girls to subscribe to reading as a gendered activity, with only 7.2% of KS4 girls agreeing with the statement that “reading is more for girls than boys” compared with 23.7% of KS2 girls.

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Author:

I'm an ex-teacher with a real passion for education, politics and teaching. I am also a keen writer and blogger with strong opinions.

One thought on “How do I switch it on? The challenge of getting boys to read books

  1. The information, including statistics, presented in this article is interesting. It means that educators, particularly of teenagers, and especially of boys, need to reflect upon their practices to see why young people are not choosing reading as a recreational activity. Sure there are many distractions and others interests that weren’t available when I was growing up, but books can play an important role in understanding self, each other and the world. I think one important aspect that is often overlooked is the need for everyone, regardless of age, to be able to choose material that is of interest to them and to not be expected to close read and analyse everything they read. That would be enough to turn anyone off!

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