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News & views

Boys ‘can’t read past 100th page’

[27 April 2011] In a survey by publisher Pearson, 25% of the 500 teachers included said that in their experience boys lost interest in books within the first few pages, 22% within the first 50 pages, and 25% by the 100-page mark. Nearly a third of the teachers questioned said boys were put off before the book had even been opened, if they saw it had more than 200 pages.

Teachers also noted that classics of English literature, such as those by Jane Austen, are putting boys off reading. Shakespeare plays including ‘The Tempest’, ‘Macbeth’ and ‘A Midsummer’s Night Dream’ were particularly unpopular, as was Steinbeck’s 1930s classic, ‘Of Mice and Men’, a set text for English Literature GCSE.

The reluctance to read could partly explain the achievement gap between boys and girls; according to children’s organization Unesco, the biggest single indicator of a child's future success at school is whether they read for pleasure. Best-selling author Frank Cottrell Boyce, consultant editor on ‘Heroes’, a new series of books that aims to switch boys back on to reading and get them past 100 pages, said: ‘Pleasure can’t be taught. Pleasure can only be shared.’ He added that boys should start on shorter books.

Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, said its research showed that boys lag behind girls not just in literacy skills, but in the amount they read and how much they enjoy reading: ‘More needs to be done to engage boys and build on their own interests.’ He added that publishers have a crucial role in this.

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