Nothing makes me want to take to the keyboard more to express my feelings, than coming across another so called 'scientific study' implying that boys are inferior to girls when it comes to reading. It makes me angry, both as an author and as a mother.
"Boys read less!"
"Boys skip pages!"
"Boys lag behind girls in their reading ability!"
"Blah, blah, blah!"
I am so sick of hearing things like this... from university studies... from other parents... from my sons' school teacher.
Last week my son called me over to the computer to show me a headline that had flashed up, implying that boys were failing at reading. He looked at me incredulously and said "this is such a load of rubbish. I love reading!"
He is nine years old and has spent every night for the past few months reading Harry Potter before bed. He has read book after book after book and is completely and utterly engrossed. He has a reading age much higher than that of his tender nine years. Like many other boys his age he loves sport, he loves to watch TV and, unsurprisingly, he loves to play computer games. But all of this doesn't mean that he doesn't also love to get his head stuck into a great book as well.
I wish so called experts would stop implying that children are one thing or another. Stop defining children according to so called scientific studies. Children are like snowflakes. They are all different. They all have particular strengths and they all have particular weaknesses.
My eight year old struggles with his reading. He finds it hard. He does skip pages. But this isn't because he is a boy! It is because he is unique just like any child and whereas his brother finds this easy, he just doesn't. He excels in other areas such as football and other sports. BUT, and this is the big BUT that I feel it is so necessary to point out, this doesn't mean that he will always find reading hard. It doesn't mean that he will never have an interest in books. He may just discover the interest at a later time in his life.
But if he hears people say that 'boys aren't good at reading'. If his teacher portrays the attitude that boys aren't expected to do as well as girls at reading. If he accepts that it is normal for boys not to be interested in books, then maybe he will grow up with the idea that, 'if that's what society thinks, then why bother trying.'
Luckily for my son, he has an author for a mother. He has a mother who can often be heard saying...
"There is no such thing as a child who can't read, they just haven't found the right book yet!"
I have four sons who have been brought up in the same environment as each other. They have all had the same opportunities. They are all wonderfully unique and individual and have their own characters. Books have always been a part of our lives. Before writing my own first fiction book for children, I would always read to them before bedtime. They all have lots of books in their bedrooms on their bookshelves. Whether they choose to pick up a book and read it is up to them. But one thing that I am certain about is being a boy will not make them any less of a reader than my nieces or the girls in their class at school. It is not finding a book that captures their heart that will make them less of a reader. It may be a book that they can lose their imagination in. It may be a book that they can identify with. It may be a book that makes them laugh out loud! My eight year old may skip lines in his school books that he brings home for homework, but give him a Frankie's Magic Football book and he will read it loud and proud!
When I wrote my first book, my inspiration was pure and simple. I wanted to write a book that my boys would love, a book that would make them laugh out loud, a book they would remember forever. Little did I know at the time how it would capture the hearts of other children and their parents. I have been contacted by parents thanking me for inspiring their children to read. Children who had never before completed a book just could not put it down. It made me feel great to hear this. But more importantly, it proved my point that we shouldn't be making sweeping judgements about children's reading ability based on their sex. If you give a child the right book, one that interests them, one that puts a smile on their face, then they will show you a child who reads more. They will show you a child who doesn't skip pages. They will show you a child who can't wait to read the next book in the series of whatever they have found that inspires them.