Boys don’t like fiction? Study breaks gender stereotypes about reading preferences
- Long-held stereotype suggests boys prefer non-fiction to fiction
- Fiction is favorite genre for boys and girls, new study found
- Those who read more frequently also had better reading scores
Do boys really prefer to read non-fiction over fiction? The “unexpected” discovery of a new study shatters this long-held myth.
Interestingly, reading for fun is linked with superior literary achievement, the author of a new study, published in the International Journal of Inclusive Education, said. However, certain stereotypes and preconceptions tend to hold students back in the classroom.
For example, although the data showed that girls tend to like reading more than boys, some have used this to generalize reluctant readers to all boys. In addition, there is also a stereotype that boys prefer non-fiction to fiction.
The problem with these long-held beliefs is that teachers end up choosing reading assignments for students based on their preconceptions, writes Laura Scholes, lead author of the study, of the Institute of Learning Sciences and Teacher Education. from the Australian Catholic University of Brisbane, Australia.
In the case of boys, teachers may offer them more non-fiction books because the stereotype favors boys’ preference for them.
“This can lead to unintended consequences by limiting reading choice (Cremin et al. 2015) and achievement, as fiction reading is more closely aligned with higher reading scores for all literacy indicators (Jerrim et al. Moss 2019; Jerrim et al. 2020; Mar and Rain 2015; Moss 2018), ”says the researcher in the study.
The study also noted how the belief that children in low-income households have “no innate desire to learn (Haberman 2010) and potentially limits space in classrooms to develop students’ willingness by as readers (Cremin et al. 2015) ”.
Boys’ fictional preference for non-fiction
The study looked at self-reported pleasure, frequency and reading achievement in the national reading test of 318 grade 3 students (ages 7 to 8) in Australia, Taylor and Francis. mentionned in a press release.
It involved 152 boys and 166 girls from 14 schools in a “range of socio-economic communities” across South East Queensland. In addition to rating how often they read, from “daily” to “hardly ever”, students also rated their level of enjoyment in fiction, non-fiction, magazines and comics as “a lot”, ” a little “or” so do not like. “
Contrary to the stereotype, fiction was the most popular type of literature for boys and girls. Specifically, 67% of girls and 57% of boys surveyed said they liked fiction “a lot”. Additionally, when it came to non-fiction, more girls (55%) said they liked it “a lot” compared to boys (51%).
“An unexpected discovery was how fiction was the genre most loved by boys, contrary to current claims that boys prefer non-fiction (OECD 2015),” the researcher wrote. “In this way, the findings support the work of others who challenge the myth that boys only read and prefer non-fiction (Coles and Hall 2002; Merga 2017; Moss 2018; Scholes, Spina and Comber 2021) . “
The study shows that parents, teachers and policy makers may have underestimated the range of children’s reading preferences, note Taylor and Francis in the release. As such, Scholes calls for a reform of “literacy programs” so that they not only focus on developing children’s reading skills, but also encourage them to enjoy the activity, a added the publication.
The study also found that children who enjoyed fiction and non-fiction more, as well as those who read more frequently, had higher reading performance scores. However, students attending schools in underdeveloped areas tended to struggle to score as high in reading as students in wealthier areas.
“The study demonstrates the importance of promoting the enjoyment of reading – especially fiction – early in students’ educational trajectories, with particular attention to boys and students from economically marginalized communities,” the researcher wrote.