Reading enjoyment up, but gender gap is increasing

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The gender gap in reading continues to grow, evidence from a survey of 32,000 young people aged eight to 18 suggests.

The fifth annual National Literacy Trust research report into young people’s reading habits, carried out in November and December but published last month, has recorded an overall increase in those who say they enjoy reading.

However, the research report warns that this rise hides an increasingly wide gender gap in both reading for pleasure and reading outside the classroom.

Also, the research reveals that one in four children think their parents do not care if they read or not – this figure rises to a third for children on free school meals.

Overall, the survey found that 54.4 per cent of the young people say they enjoy reading very much or quite a lot – the highest proportion since the study first began.

And 41.4 per cent said that they read outside school on a daily basis – also the highest figure since the survey began.

However, the overall figures hide a persistent and increasing gender gap between girls and boys. Researchers found 46.5 per cent of girls say that they read outside class on a daily basis, compared with just 35.8 per cent of boys.

This is compared to the 2013 report that found 36.6 per cent of girls and 28.2 per cent of boys read outside class every day.

While the 2014 figures have notably increased, the gap between boys and girls has also increased, from a gap of 8.4 to one of 10.7 percentage points.

Furthermore, 61.6 per cent of girls enjoy reading either very much or quite a lot compared with 47.2 per cent of boys. Slight increases on 2013 when the respective figures were 59.8 and 47.1 per cent. But again, the gap has increased from 12.7 to 14.4 percentage points.

Elsewhere, the survey also raises concerns about children’s perceived lack of parental support for reading. 

It finds that 24.3 per cent of the young people felt that their parents did not care if they read or not. This figure rises to 31.5 per cent of children on free school meals.

The survey findings also underlined the importance of young people enjoying their reading. It found that young people who said they enjoyed reading very much were three times as likely to be reading above the level expected for their age when compared with those who do not enjoy reading at all. 

At the same time, young people who read outside class on a daily basis are five times as likely to read above the level expected for their age when compared with those who never do.

Director of the National Literacy Trust Jonathan Douglas said: “It is a real concern that a third of the most disadvantaged children think their parents do not care whether they read. More must be done to help parents realise what a difference reading with their children from a young age can make to their future.”


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