Do a little research and you’ll find reams (paper and electronic) of commentary seeking the answer to a serious question: “Why don’t boys like to read?”
The opinions are varied. A few of them:
• Girls are verbal; boys aren’t. Girls read for enjoyment; boys want information they can use immediately.
• Too many English teachers are female and push reading material that is more attractive to girls. Too many publishing executives are female and push books for children and young adults that are skewed toward girls.
• Boys prefer their action stories with a dash of violence and their funny stories with a sprinkle of grossness, and such things are frowned upon and discouraged in a culture fearful of school shootings and offending people’s sensibilities.
There’s probably no one reason or answer, but the problem is clear and it isn’t new.
For more than 40 years, the National Assessment of Education Progress has shown a “gender gap” between boys and girls in reading at the elementary, middle and high school ages.
A report four years ago by the Center on Education Policy showed that boys were behind girls in reading in every state and every grade.
It’s hard not to see a link between those numbers and a Pew Research Center survey that shows more women than men, in every ethnic group, are enrolling in college these days.
The situation led Jon Scieszka, a former elementary school teacher turned children’s book author, to launch Guys Read, a program to help boys become “self-motivated, lifelong readers” by exposing them to “guy-favorites” — books that will appeal to them.
The Gadsden Public Library has joined the initiative, and throughout February will have volunteers in every Gadsden City elementary school, telling boys about the joy and value of reading.
The strategy isn’t to read to the kids. That’s just going to produce glazed eyes and tuned-out brains.
The volunteers are pointing out the exciting things that can be found in books — titles discussed this week ranged from pirates to how to bathe a cat (very carefully) — in hopes of enticing boys to seek them out on their own.
We support this program and hope it can be expanded to other local schools.
It’s like one volunteer told boys at Floyd Elementary School, “opening up that book and beginning to read” can be the path to adventures around the planet.
The key is the “opening” part.