Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Talk Amongst Yourselves - Why Boys Don't Read

This article was posted to the School Library Journal blog on Monday.
Here's an excerpt.

Who reads? Well, mostly women. Moms frequently read to their young sons at bedtime. Elementary school teachers and media specialists, who are primarily women, read to their classes. And in movies and on TV, it’s women or girls who are typically rushing off to their book clubs. Men don’t read—instead, they do. For instance, men don’t read books about hunting, they hunt. They don’t devour novels about race-car driving; they go to drag races—and often take along their sons. For many boys, reading becomes a chore that prevents them from pursuing manly things, like playing sports, fishing, rock climbing, and, later, chasing girls. Testosterone keeps guys running and gunning, and if they don’t see members of their own tribe reading—trust me—they won’t deem it important.

. . .

Now, this is purely my opinion, but children copy their elders. They want to be what they see. A boy doesn’t want to be a woman. He wants to do what a man does. And if he doesn’t see a man reading, he won’t read.

I have tons of school work to do this week, but folks seem to be writing things I just can't ignore. Why do we give boys so little credit? Why the gross generalizations? While reading role models (teachers, parents, relatives, friends, etc.) are important, they can't possibly be the most important factor in what makes a reader and keeps one reading. Or can they? What do you think makes a reader? Are role models really the most important factor at play here?

As you're pondering this question, watch this video about reading.

P.S. - A little personal history, not that my experience should be the basis for the argument I am formulating, but my father was a reader AND a doer. My mother never read until recently (and she's nearly 80).


  1. Again. Whoa.
    This person discounts fathers, male teachers and men who know how to read books on hunting -- and I know plenty of them must, in order to learn more about it and entertain themselves outside of hunting season. Just as any woman would just bristle at being thought to be controlled by her estrogen, and any teen girl would be deeply annoyed by a boy who sniped, "What's the matter with you? On your period?" it's a horrible assumption to assume men don't read because they're run by their testosterone and are havoc-wreaking copycats.

    I believe I can see where the author wanted to go, but she seems to have relied heavily on stereotype and assumption to get there, which is a shame.

  2. I have one son who loves to read and one who doesn't, so I'm not sure about the significance of a male role model. I do know that video games are a huge distraction from reading. The recent book Boys Adrift speaks of an entire generation of boys who don't read, study, or interact because of video games.

  3. Like poemhome, I think the personality of the individual boy is a huge part of it. And I also think it is false that boys don't want to be like their mothers, and reject everything they do. In my experience, if I were to take up, um, hand painting fans, or dried flower arranging, my boys would be right there with me. As usual. Their father, on the other hand, is too busy reading to have any interest in hand painting fans.

  4. Like your other commenters, I think this is awfully stereotyped and shallow. I grew up in a reading household; my dad read to us more than my mom, but both my parents are and always have been big readers. If anything, my mom's more of a "doer" than my dad--or she was until their retirement, anyway. In our house, both parents read (both to ourselves & to the kids).

    One pleasure I have in teaching children's lit is in talking to guys who are readers. They're out there, and they don't really fit any single mold that I've seen yet.

  5. Um, no.
    I don't buy this.
    First of all, antecdotally, I know a whole heap of male readers, including my dad and my husband. And I'm pretty sure they'd be offended if they read this. But they can't put down their books to do so right now.
    And second of all, some kids take to reading like a fish to water no matter who shows them (or doesn't show them) how. And, likewise, some are reluctant. Both girls and boys -- regardless of their male or female parents, or siblings, or teachers.

    P'shaw, I say.

  6. Clicked on the link to see who the bonehead writer of that pap was and the opening lines caught my eye: "If you think this is one of those scholarly articles packed with facts and percentiles and references to government studies, stop reading. This piece is full of anecdotes and opinions."

    Oh, good. Thanks for warning me that I can ignore you and your typing (I wouldn't call it writing).

  7. I agree that stereotypes and sweeping generalizations never do much to solve problems.

    At the same time, I don’t think you can ignore the issue just because your child or your child’s 5th cousin twice removed is an avid male reader. Boys have the potential to love books just as much as girls. But do they now...No. Gail’s use of an elephant as the spokes model for male reading is the perfect analogy. It’s a big, smelly problem that can’t be ignored.

    Someone sent me this article a few months ago because I am in the middle of working on a supposed “boy book.” (although I really hate that term) It has some information for those looking for more cold hard stats:

    oh btw, Gail Giles is actually far from a “bonehead.” She is a very talented author with many beautifully written books.

  8. Ok, she's not a bonehead. I checked out her site and she seems to have written some interesting books. That makes me wonder all the more why she takes such a narrow view of men and tossed off such a quick and thoughtless article. Sure, women generally read more books than men, but there are so many male writers (hence I assume they are also readers) that her argument is silly. And if you throw in all the magazines, newspapers, blogs, etc being read by men and women right now, I seriously doubt there's much of a difference.

  9. I don't know what they are talking about when they say boys don't read. In my family all the men and boys love to read or just walk around with books in their paws. In my school the boys are often tracking me down insisting I find them the books they want to read. If there is a boy who doesn't like to read the problem is often with the adults around him that haven't figured out the right triggers or approach to give him the skills. The stories are there.