Boys’ love of reading disappears dramatically as they become teens

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: iStock

Only a third of teenage boys in the UK say they enjoy reading, a new study by the National Literacy Trust has found.

The charity, which is dedicated to raising literacy levels in the UK, discovered a considerable drop in boys’ enjoyment of reading as they get older. While more than 72 per cent of boys aged eight to 11 said they enjoyed reading, this fell to just under 36 per cent for boys aged 14 to 16.

The charity’s Annual Literacy Survey for 2016, based on data from more than 42,000 pupils aged eight to 18, showed that girls’ reading enjoyment also dropped during their teens but not so dramatically. Nearly 83 per cent of girls aged eight to 11 were passionate about reading compared to 53 per cent of 14 to 16-year-olds.

The charity found no difference in reading enjoyment between pupils who receive free school meals and those who don’t.

Pupils from White ethnic backgrounds were least likely to say they enjoyed reading while pupils from Asian backgrounds were most likely to enjoy reading.

Overall though, youngsters in the UK are enthusiastic about reading. Nearly 60 per cent of children said they enjoyed reading “very much” or “quite a lot”.

The research also highlighted the link between reading and attainment, showing that the longer children keep their enjoyment of reading the greater the benefits in the classroom. Twelve-year-olds who enjoy reading have a reading age 2.1 years higher than their peers, rising to 3.3 years for 14-year-olds.

“We are thrilled that our research has found children’s enjoyment of reading to be at an all-time high,” said Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust.

“When children enjoy reading and have books of their own, they do better at school and later in life, so we must continue to do everything we can to inspire children to fall in love with reading for a lifetime.”

Encouraging boys to read: Tips from the NLT

  1. Make reading active. Get boys to “act out” what they have read.
  2. Provide male reading role-models
  3. It doesn’t have to be just books. Magazines and comics are a great way to encourage boys to read.
  4. Give lots of praise.
  5. Use a hobby or sport as a hook.
  6. Build regular reading time into the day.
  7. Experiment with genres.

Source: The NLT’s Words for Life website:

Further information

To find out more about the National Literacy Trust and its resources for secondary schools, go to


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