Boys read less than girls and skip more pages in books, studies find

Socioeconomic status is not believed to be a factor on the poor reading habits of boys

Will Worley
Sunday 23 October 2016 23:09 BST
Girls read books more thoroughly, the studies found
Girls read books more thoroughly, the studies found (orbandomonkos/iStockphoto)

Girls are better at reading than boys, new research has suggested, and male children are more likely to miss sections from books or skip pages entirely.

Boys are also more likely to read non-fiction, but in a more lazy fashion than girls.

The research, conducted by Keith Topping, Professor of Educational and Social Research at the University of Dundee, was formed of two studies which collectively analysed the reading habits of more than a million children.

Prof Topping's conclusion about the reading habits of boys aged five to 18 was: “What they are doing is not particularly good – and they are lagging behind.”

The data was collected by examining questions pupils answered in a specially developed school computer system after having read a book. The questions are designed to gauge how well a child has read and understood a book.

“The males were significantly worse on the [quiz] outcome measures, didn’t gain as much in performance on reading tests and their average percentage correct in the tests was low,” Prof Topping told the Observer.

It made no difference whether it was non-fiction being read – typically preferred by boys – or fiction, the researchers said.

Socioeconomic status, often considered a factor in educational attainment, also had no bearing whatsoever on the results, according to Prof Topping.

The results have left the researchers baffled. “It’s a mystery,” Prof Topping told the newspaper.

However, he suggested it was important for boys to receive feedback on their reading.

It was also important for teachers to spend time with children talking about their reading choices and to suggest more challenging books for them, researchers said.

But, it was key for the harder reading to be of an area of interest to the child so it was more likely to be read properly.

The researchers also suggested that boys often choose books which are not challenging enough but are capable of reading difficult material if it is something which interests them.

The director of the education assessment company, Renaissance, which provided Prof Topping with the software for the research has called for dedicated reading times at school.

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