For those of you who have noticed that boys read less than girls, there may now be compelling evidence to support your observations.
Two of the largest ever studies into the reading habits of children have suggested that boys of every age read less thoroughly on average than girls and skip words. The studies also claimed that boys take less time to process words, skip chunks of text and choose books that are too easy for them, refusing to progress to tougher material. Keith Topping, a professor of education and social research at the University of Dundee, is behind both studies.
The first study examined the reading progress of 852,295 students in 3,243 schools, about 10 percent of all the students in the UK. The second quizzed 150,000 students in 969 schools about reading comprehension (www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02702711.2013.865692). Collectively, the studies drew worrying conclusions about male readers between the ages of five and 18. In order to gather the data, the study made used of a computerized system, from the Accelerated Reader program, common in schools across the UK.
Students were required to read a book, either at home or at school, before taking a quiz of five, 10 or 20 questions depending on the length of the book. Pupils and teachers were then given immediate feedback.
The system also detailed which books a child had read, their level, the number of words included and a child's reading level. Test results indicated that boys were skipping chunks of text, or entire pages - a characteristic far less pronounced in girls.
Topping's second study investigated whether or not it mattered if the text was fiction on non-fiction. While boys lived up to expectations by choosing non-fiction books more than fiction, they still didn't read the material as carefully as girls.
The study's authors felt that one key to improving results was to find out what boys were interested in so that they remained focused on the page.
Roald Dahl proved to be a favourite author amongst almost all age groups, and in the early years of school, all pupils were reading more difficult books with a higher degree of success, for example the Harry Potter novels. Books by Jeff Kinney, David Walliams and Suzanne Collins were popular with high-achievers of both genders, and children interviewed as part of the study also enjoyed works by Rick Riordan, Cassandra Clare, Christopher Paolini and Daisy Meadows.
To help students develop their skills, the study encouraged parents, teachers, librarians and classroom assistants to talk to children about their reading choices and suggest more challenging titles. The key point for advancement is interest, something that will get them addicted to reading as a lifelong habit.
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