Monday, March 23, 2009

No Kidding, Sherlock

I doubt that many would dispute the premise that, as a group, women have a higher percentage of avid readers than men. Just take a look at the blog rolls on any of the lit blogs you read and that fact will become pretty obvious. Male lit bloggers must be outnumbered at least 10 to 1.

But for the few doubters who might still be out there, here is a London survey that makes the point in a number of different ways (as recapped in The Hindu):

Twice as many men as women admitted that they never finish a book.

Forty-eight per cent of women can be considered to be page turners, or avid readers, compared with only 26 per cent of men.

Slow Worms are those who spend a long time reading, but who take their books very seriously and finish them. They can often manage only one or two books a year. This group was made up by 32 per cent of male respondents and 18 per cent women.

Serial Shelvers have shelves full of books that have never been opened and are not likely to be -- 17 per cent of women and 20 per cent of men fall into this category.
Call me crazy, but I firmly believe that this split starts in the earliest school years and gets wider and wider all the way through university. Elementary school teachers and the parents of boys desperately need to work together to, at the least, begin to narrow this gender gap.


  1. I did my part! I created a male reader! Stories every single night from the time he could bring a book to me. Reading together even after he could read. WAY after. Openly sharing my obsession for books. His father is also a 'worm, luckily.

    These days: My son rereads a lot of his old favorites, loves graphic novels and is fond of nonfiction with a historical bent.

    My grandchildren are probably still years away, but I'm ready for them...

  2. I'm with Bybee. I did my part and created two male readers. :)

  3. Me, too! I have two teenage sons who love to read, and one of them even wants to be a writer.

  4. During the 23 years I been teaching elementary school, I've seen a positive change in the gender gap between girl readers and boy readers. I think it coincides with changes in the literature available to the kids. There such rich, adventurous stuff for them now, such as the Redwall series and Harry Potter. As a 6th grade teacher, I've had kids struggle with reading, but they love the books they are struggling through. I don't think I'm being overly optimistic, and I DO think we need to support these struggling readers in every way we can. But the literature is motivating to them!

  5. Don't take this the wrong way, Sam, because I don't really disagree with you, but I pose the question because I'm quite curious to know how you'd answer it: Why does it matter?

  6. Well done, Bybee, Amy and 3M. That's absolutely one of the greatest gifts your sons will ever receive from you.

  7. That's a great point, Robin. Boys do not generally tend to come to reading as quickly or as naturally as girls, so material that appeals to them is one of the keys to getting them started.

  8. Mella, it matters because, at least in this country, higher education is becoming more and more a thing dominated by young women. We are on the verge of writing off a significant portion of the country's population and, especially now, I don't think we can afford to do that.

    Some universities have gotten desperate enough to actively recruit male students, quietly practicing affirmative action for boys. We are losing the education battle to other parts of the world - and reading well, and a love of reading, is one of the major keys to it all.

    I'm worried about my two grandsons and their attitude toward reading; my granddaughter is leaving them in the dust and it shows in her overall grades as compared to theirs.