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Study finds boys’ dislike for reading fiction is actually fiction

Gender stereotypes around reading may be holding boys back in the classroom.

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Gender stereotypes around reading may be holding boys back in the classroom.

This is according to a study – published in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Inclusive Education – that challenges the long-standing myth that boys prefer non-fiction, with well over half (57%) of the boys who were studied saying they liked fiction or story books “a lot”; and even if girls were more likely to rate enjoyment of reading non-fiction more highly than boys (55% vs 51%).

For this study, the researchers used data on 152 boys and 166 girls attending 14 schools across South East Queensland in a range of socioeconomic communities in Australia.

All children – aged from seven to eight – were asked to rate their level of enjoyment for reading fiction, non-fiction, and comics and magazines from “like a lot” to “like a little” or “don’t like”. They also had to indicate how frequently they read, ranging from “daily” to “hardly ever”.

Overall, the proportion of girls and boys who liked fiction “a lot” was 63%, just over half (53%) said the same for non-fiction, and 37% for comics and magazines.

The findings showed that:

  • Students who had higher levels of enjoyment for fiction and non-fiction, and who read more frequently were more likely to have better reading skills.
  • Students from schools in poorer areas tend to struggle to achieve the same reading scores as more affluent children.

The study’s lead author, Laura Scholes, said this debunks long-held stereotypical beliefs re reading; and this has important implications for parents, teachers and policy-makers since it suggests that the range of boys’ reading preferences may have been underestimated.

As such, Scholes recommended:

  • Making library visits one of the activities to be promoted for all students, no matter their SOGIESC, as these are “particularly important for emerging readers”, and could “especially broaden the experience of boys and students from under-resourced homes”.
  • Consider reforming literacy agendas so lessons do not just focus on developing reading skills; instead, teachers should also promote the will to read and the enjoyment gained from literature.
  • Constant communication between teachers and parents to develop strategies that encourage children to read, including fiction.

“Fiction plays a key role in reading development. So, facilitating opportunities to develop sustained enjoyment of reading of this text type in the classroom is one way to expand boys’ repertoire of experience. It also supports students with more limited access to quality reading resources,” Scholes said.

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