Boys are most reluctant readers

2nd December 2005 at 00:00
A quarter of secondary school pupils admit they do not read enough, but say they do not want to read more, according to a survey by the National Literacy Trust. Only 8 per cent of children in primary schools felt the same way.

The survey, which questioned 8,000 children aged five to 17 in 98 primary and secondary schools, has highlighted the struggle faced by secondary teachers in getting some children, particularly boys, to read.

The top three kinds of reading outside lessons at secondary school were magazines, websites and text messages. Emails, TV or joke books and newspapers all came ahead of fiction. Younger children put joke books, magazines and comics in their top three, but fiction came in fourth place.

The reluctance of boys to read was reflected in the finding that twice as many boys as girls said they did not enjoy reading at all.

At home, almost twice as many boys admited to reading on the toilet as girls, who preferred reading in the bath.

Asked what classroom activities might encourage them to read more, children of all ages suggested designing websites or magazines, meeting authors and playing reading games.

Amelia Foster, co-author of the survey, said reading in schools could be encouraged by using sources such as websites or comics in lessons, or asking male teachers what they liked reading and creating posters to put up around schools.

She said that international studies had found that children who read the most for pleasure perform the best academically.

Barbara Conridge, chair of the National Association for the Teaching of English primary school committee, said there was more time for reading at primary schools, where books were shorter and cheaper.

"Having access to a box of books at secondary school is not the same as having a classroom library. It is really important for secondary schools to have a decent librarian."

Mrs Conridge said teachers needed to be enthusiastic about reading themselves to encourage their children.

"It was the kids who read the Harry Potter books and spread the word about them. The teachers rubbished the books, then secretly read them on the beach, came back after the holidays and admitted they were OK."

All the schools in the survey were members of "Reading Connects", the national scheme to encourage children to read.

Practical ideas to use in school can be found at readingconnects.org.uk.

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