Gender and Reading Preferences
Worldwide literacy scores indicate that boys do not perform as well as girls. For example, in England, girls score higher than boys in English when tested at ages 7, 11, 14, and 16 (Haupt, 2003) while, in Australia, a 1996 survey found that literacy scores for boys declined over a 10 year period (Bantick, 1996). Von Drasek (2002) reported on the National Center for Educational Statistics National Assessment for Educational Progress of 1992–2000 reading assessments in the United States. Between 1998 and 2000, “the gap between boys’ and girls’ scores increased” (p. 72). Although the percent of girls at or above the proficient level in 2000 was higher than in 1992, for “boys, the percentage in 2000 was not significantly different than in 1992” (p. 72).
In Reading Don’t Fix No Chevys, Smith and Wilhelm (2002) identified a number of general research findings about boys, girls, and reading:
- Girls comprehend fiction better than boys.
- Boys seem to prefer nonfiction, magazines, and newspapers.
- Boys tend to prefer short texts or texts with short sections.
- Girls enjoy leisure reading more than boys.
- Many boys enjoy reading about sports and hobbies.
- Some boys enjoy fantasy and science fiction.
- Graphic novels and comic books are more popular with boys than girls.
- Boys prefer visual texts.
- Boys really do judge a book by its cover.
However, Wilhelm and Smith (Wilhelm, 2001) went on to caution educators that boys can be “more different than alike” (p. 60) and that depending on statistics alone can cause educators to “lose sight of individual differences” (p. 60). Citing Millard (1997) and Telford (1999), Wilhelm and Smith (Wilhelm, 2001) noted that “teachers tend to use conventional wisdom to reinforce traditional notions of gender and gender preferences, thereby denying boys wider choices and chances to expand their tastes” (p. 60).
Gurian (2001) pointed out that most of the “reading traumatized and reading-deficient high school students” (p. 297) are boys. In a national survey conducted during the 2001 Teen Read Week, adolescents responded to the question: “If you don’t read much or don’t like reading, why?” Boys reported the following as obstacles to reading: boring/not fun (39.3%), no time/too busy (29.8), like other activities better (11.1%), and can’t get into the stories (7.7%). Other responses constituted less than 5% (Jones & Fiorelli, 2003).
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