The Commission on Boys Reading findings

The Commission on Boys Reading findings
2 July 2012

Early this year the Commission on Boys Reading was set up by the All-Party Parliamentary Literacy Group and the National Literacy Trust. The remit was to explore and raise awareness of the problems associated with boys and reading following research which found at age five, there is a gap of 11% between boys' and girls' reading achievement. Booktrust welcomes their report, published today which recognises there is no simple cause and effect.


The Commission found that boys' underachievement in reading is associated with the interplay of three factors including:


- 'The home and family environment, where girls are more likely to be bought books and taken to the library, and where mothers are more likely to support and role model reading;


- The school environment, where teachers may have a limited knowledge of contemporary and attractive texts for boys and where boys may not be given the opportunity to develop their identity as a reader through experiencing reading for enjoyment;


- Male gender identities which do not value learning and reading as a mark of success'.


The Commission found that the gender gap begins in the home, with parents supporting boys very differently from girls. In 2010 Booktrust undertook a survey with parents/carers of babies under 12 months old which found that baby girls were more likely to be involved in reading activities by parents and carers than baby boys. Booktrust believes that, from birth, every child should be actively encouraged to become a reader enabling every child to fulfil their potential.


The Commission recognises that 'boys' are not an homogenous group; they are not all disengaged. However, existing research and the findings of the Commission suggest that approaches that effectively support boys are equally girl-friendly with the focus on 'quality teaching'. Through our own work at Booktrust with our targeted reading programmes we are only too aware that literacy scores are very closely aligned to socio-economic status. It is essential that we raise literacy levels not just for boys but for all children, particularly those from the lowest income families.


The recommendations from the Commission include recognition of the need for a cross government approach to literacy, the introduction of an evidence framework to inform practice and the importance of social marketing. In addition every child should be supported to develop as a reader, parents (particularly fathers) need to be involved, informed and supported and libraries should target children (particularly boys) who are least likely to be supported in their reading at home. Perhaps more challenging for schools will be to consider recommendation 7, which is that every boy should have weekly support from a male reading role model.


Booktrust believes that every child needs to have inspiration to become readers, access to all types of material and the opportunity for reading to take place. Any initiative needs to develop the skills and enjoyment for all children, but it is essential that it explicitly considers how it addresses both the gender and socio-economic status gaps that currently exist.


If you are an organisation or individual that works to promote reading for enjoyment with young people please consider completing our online consultation into reading for enjoyment.


My son who is now 16 has been read to and taken to our local library since he was very small. Although he is taking Higher English, he doesn't like reading books! I can't explain this as it is not for want of encouragement and he lives in a house which has two large bookcases full of books on widely varying subjects and parents who read regularly. I wonder is it a symptom of the laptop,IPhone and playstation generation and peer pressue amongst boys? His vocabulary is very good as is his written work, but he hates reading books, one of your previous contributers may have a point regarding the choice of books for school coursework.

16 September 2012

I completely agree with your article. I have three boys myself, now all graduates, and none of them read for pleasure. The whole school reading experience put them off books altogether.
I am a Reading Specialist and I have just written and published a Reading Programme aimed at parents and professionals who want to help struggling and reluctant readers. The approach is phonics based with a strong emphasis on children choosing their own books to read. School reading schemes put off many children, especially boys. I am a huge advocate of picture books and rhyming books, and not just for toddlers!
Jan Ball at

Jan Ball
9 July 2012

At age 5? Maybe it is time to take it to heart what many experts (like Richard House) have been recommending for years: do not start formal education until 6. Maybe boys are just even more put off learning than girls when they are too young and it spoils it for them forever.
Most children across Europe cannot read at age 5, they seem to catch up alright...

Ulrike Bulle
2 July 2012

Add a comment