Schools should broaden reading material to encourage a wider group of boys to enjoy the activity, a reading expert claims.
According to Education HQ, Dr Laura Scholes, a specialist on boys and reading from Queensland University of Technology, studied 15 boys aged 10-12 from working-class backgrounds in South East Queensland where unemployment was high and school completion low.
Boys’ education is one of the key social factors that shape the lives and health of men and boys health. Lower levels of education can be linked to shorter life expectancy, poorer physical and mental health, lower wages, higher risk of unemployment and greater exposure to crime.
In simple terms, the better your education the better your health. As far as boys are concerned, the education system delivers better results for girls at every stage.
Many of the study group expressed an interest in magazines and other literature that was not typically sanctioned in schools.
They also linked reading to masculine stereotypes, with one boy describing reading as an activity for “nerds”.
The five boys who did express enthusiasm for reading, were raised in families where reading was valued and typically exceeded year-level reading requirements.
"Mum loves me reading, she just watches me read all the time," one boy said.
Those who disliked reading were all below year level reading requirements and found the activity boring.
“People that read books need to get a life I reckon,” commented ‘Jaydn’.
Scholes said these boys connected more with physical activities as confirmation of masculinity and popularity and those who showed an interest in books risked being marginalised.
While a home reading culture would encourage boys to read, Scholes said teachers could play their part by:
- Challenging current views of gender
- Broadening reading material at school, beyond traditional literary texts
- Expanding boys’ reading identities to include a repertoire that young males can aspire to and value.
As many of the sample group wanted jobs that they perceived as “masculine”- such as police officer, builder or farmer - they were more likely to read if they thought it would improve their chances of employment.
“I want to get a really good job, like my brother, he's a bricklayer,” said ‘Mason’.
"He takes home around about $400 a week. And now he’s got a good job and he had a good education,” Mason said.
Scholes said reading was a complicated and conflicting experience for many boys in disadvantaged areas.
“But positive experiences of being a male reader at school and at home can support day-to-day reading, contributing to the ongoing development of reading skills, expertise and educational outcomes.”
Dr Scholes has written a number of books including Boys, Masculinities and Reading: Gender Identity and Literacy as Social Practice. Critical Studies in Gender and Sexuality in Education Series. New York, NY: Routledge.