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  • Why Johnny Won’t Read

    Filed at 7:55 pm under by Tim Haas

    From The Washington Post today…

    From 1992 to 2002, the gender gap in reading by young adults widened considerably. In overall book reading, young women slipped from 63 percent to 59 percent, while young men plummeted from 55 percent to 43 percent.

    Placed in historical perspective, these findings fit with a gap that has existed in the United States since the spread of mass publishing in the mid-19th century. But for the gap to have grown so much in so short a time suggests that what was formerly a moderate difference is fast becoming a decided marker of gender identity: Girls read; boys don’t.

    The article goes on to place the blame squarely on the schools’ choice of literature and it identifies clearly the problem (too many books about fuzzy social issues, and an overwhelming lack of strong male characters). Unfortunately, it then ends on a weak note by calling for more study of the problem.

    We don’t need “some ideas on what needs to be done to get boys reading again.” We already know. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t particularly PC.

    4 Responses to “Why Johnny Won’t Read”

    Comment by
    January 25th, 2005
    at 8:26 pm

    My brother John-Wayne (13 yrs old) is studying three books in school this YEAR. One is Chinese Cinderella, which is a beautiful book that unfortunately for him is not a book that he would want to read (female lead character, lack of ‘action’, focus on relationships.) I will almost certainly get the book when he finishes with it.

    The second book he is going to read is Holes, which at least has male lead characters, which means he might actually read the book. It however primarily features ‘troubled’ characters, and very few of the characters are sympathetic. He’ll read it, but probably won’t enjoy it all that much. (Score a second book for the big sister!)

    The third book I haven’t read, but I could tell from flipping through and reading the blurb that it is a formulaic book featuring a boy very concerned about his older brother who has got into the wrong crowd etc etc. The few sentences I read were badly written.

    THIS is supposed to encourage him to read? Two decent books and a bad one, and the two decent ones unlikely to appeal to the active agressive type of boy that my brother is? He’d barely read at all if my sister and I didn’t give him copies of the old classics that boys love, like Teasure Island and Tom Sawyer.

    And at a ‘very good’, very expensive private school too.

    Comment by
    January 25th, 2005
    at 9:08 pm

    3 whole books? How do they find the time? 😉

    Comment by
    January 26th, 2005
    at 8:00 am

    Please, please, SOMEBODY get these boys a copy of D’Aulaires’ Greek Myths or Rosemary Sutcliff’s Wandering of Odyesseus. What boy can resist a man’s violent, bloody battle with a cannibalistic cyclop, encounters with three-headed monsters etc?

    The only exposure I had in public school to these stories were blurbs in a textbook. After I had read all the biographies in the grammar school library, I started sneaking adult literature from friends and family. Okay, I read Helter Skelter in 4th grade and then moved on to Stephen King’s Firestarter, so I hadn’t exactly moved into the classics. I just could never understand the interest in Judy Blume…(well, there was that one novel “Wifey”)….

    Comment by
    January 26th, 2005
    at 3:26 pm

    When my son was in ps, he had to read Sarah, Plain and Tall.

    Do I need to add, he hated it.

    One of the joys of HS’ing; he can read whatever he chooses.