Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Boys Think Reading Isn’t Cool

Why do boys think reading isn’t cool? Why do boys lag behind girls in reading scores? What can be done to level the field? Those are all questions being asked today about the discrepancies between boys and girls and their attitudes towards reading.

More than one expert believes it’s because boys are wired differently than girls. Many believe it has to do with testosterone. Others believe it has to do with socialization. Some believe there is a bias towards girls. I’m guessing it is a combination of all of the above and then some.

Mike Knight writes an excellent piece in the September 2007 edition of Mpls St. Paul Magazine entitled The Truth About Boys and Reading. You can read it by clicking here.

He talks to a group of male authors, academics and librarians that discuss the issue and comes to the conclusion we need to rethink our whole approach to the way we teach. Imagine that!

"I would say there is a crisis," said Walter Dean Myers, a children's book author. "Too many parents have walked away from this idea ... that education is a family concept, is a community concept, is not simply something that schools do."

Another article, Boys' lack of interest in reading tackled by groups, written by Paul Nyhan in the October 24, 2007 seattlepi.com quotes Pamela LaBorde, children's librarian at the Seattle Public Library's Ballard branch, "A lot of times, when boys get to middle school they are feeling sort of disenfranchised from the educational experience.” You can read the entire article by clicking here.

The next seven paragraphs are directly from Paul Nyhan’s article:

“The problem isn't necessarily that boys don't read, it's that they are often practical readers,” LaBorde said, “reading magazines and even manuals.”

The reasons behind the reading gender gap are complex — everything from cultural changes to behavioral differences — but researchers know the brains of boys and girls develop at different rates.

They also may feel ignored. That's because the publishing industry tends to focus on girls, Myers said.

"The publishing industry doesn't think there is a market, so they just don't market them," said Hayden Bass, teen services librarian at Seattle Public's Library's downtown branch.

To engage male readers, books need to tackle their issues: what it means to be a man, walk away from a fight, play sports and even go to war, Myers said.

"I've never had a male editor," the New Jersey-based author said. "When you see the books that win the awards, you see books that are much more suitable for girls."

When Myers wrote Fallen Angels, a teen novel about Vietnam, it was a big hit with male readers.

Nyhan finishes his article with the following two paragraphs:

But like many student challenges, the first steps begin at home.

"Getting kids reading ready by talking to them, by having conversations with these boys and telling these young readers that they have to join our society, we don't have to join theirs," Myers said. "You have to interact with your children."

If you are a male, what do you like to read? If you are a female, what do you like to read? I’m curious, what are your thoughts on the subject?




Daniel said...

Well here's one guy who likes to read! I'm mostly interested in war novels, though I've read other stuff as well. I've read Tom Clancy, W.E.B. Griffin, Lee Child, Clive Cussler, Tess Gerritsen and Robin Cook, just to name a few authors. Nuts to any guy who doesn't think reading is cool!

I'm Not Done Yet said...

Good for you, Daniel. I think that's great! Keep reading.

Have you read "Fallen Angels"? If you have, what did you think of it? What is it you like about war novels?

Daniel said...

No, I actually haven't read "Fallen Angels" sad to say. I like war novels mainly for the historical aspects of them.