Gender gap in reading begins at home, MPs say

Written by: HTU | Published:

The reading gap between boys and girls is increasing, an investigation by MPs has found.

The reading gap between boys and girls is increasing, an investigation by MPs has found.

The Boys' Reading Commission has found that the gap between how much time boys spend reading and also how much they enjoy reading is widening when compared with girls.

The Commission, which was set up by the All-Party Parliamentary Literacy Group and the National Literacy Trust, has made a series of recommendations, including calling for boys to have weekly access to male reading role-models.

MPs and Lords on the Commission heard evidence from teachers, boys, literacy experts and authors including Michael Rosen and Michael Morpurgo.

Their report includes research from the National Literacy Trust (NLT) showing that in 2005, 57 per cent of girls said they enjoyed reading compared to 46 per cent of boys – a gap of 11 per cent. However, in 2011, this gap increased to 13 per cent as the figure for boys dropped to 44 per cent.

The gap in the amount of time spent reading has also increased from seven per cent in 2005 to nine per cent in 2011. Currently 36 per cent of girls read outside of class every day compared to 26 per cent of boys. The research covers children aged eight to 16.

The Commission said that the reading gender gap begins in the home, with parents supporting boys “very differently" from girls. Society's expectations of boys and peer pressure can also prevent some boys from reading, they say.

MPs have recommended that a “toolkit of effective practice" be created to help schools support boys' reading and have urged schools to focus on reading for enjoyment just as much as the “mechanics" of reading.

Meanwhile, family initiatives should help parents, especially fathers, to support literacy and library support should be available for those boys least likely to be supported in their reading at home.

In 2011, there was a gap of 11 percentage points between boys' and girls' achievement in reading at age five (71 per cent of boys working securely within level for age against 82 per cent of girls).

The report said that between ages five and seven the gap "narrows significantly", but then it once again worsens. It states: "At age seven (key stage 1) in 2011, 89 per cent of girls achieved the expected level in reading, compared with 82 per cent of boys. However, from then on it increases again. At age 14, girls are outstripping boys in English by 12 percentage points. And at GCSE, again in 2011, 59 per cent of boys achieved A* to C in English, compared with 73 per cent of girls.

Commission chairman Gavin Barwell MP said: “There is no silver bullet, but by promoting reading for enjoyment, ensuring teachers are aware of the materials that will engage boys, getting our libraries to focus on those who fall behind, making sure fathers understand their role as reading role-models, getting volunteer male reading role-models into our classrooms, and using the media to change gender perceptions, we can close the gap."

Schools minister Nick Gibb added: “Through phonics we are ensuring all children learn the mechanics of reading early in their school career. Helping children to develop a love of reading and a habit of reading for pleasure every day is key to ensuring we have well educated and literate young people."

The Commission's report is at

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