Reading Motivation for Boys

Closing the gender literacy gap one male reader at a time!

What is reading motivation?

Reading motivation is more than just the love of reading. Motivation is both the desire and the confidence to read in addition to the enjoyment of reading. The desire to read can come from an intrinsic love of reading or it can stem from students placing a lot of value on reading a certain text. The confidence to read comes because the text that a student is provided with is something that he or she knows that he or she is capable of reading. Students will be the most motivated to read a text when they know it is something that they can read, that it is something of importance to them or their lives, and when it is a type of text that they enjoy reading.


Reading motivation is important because the more a child is driven to read - the better reader he or she will become! Without the will to read, a child who has the skills to read can't become an effective reader.

The Literacy Gender Gap

The literacy gender gap refers to a statistical difference in achievement between boys and girls in all aspects of literacy, specifically reading. According to research, more boys are inclined to call themselves "non-readers", which means they don't read for fun or enjoyment. Boys overall have less interest in reading and less motivation to read, are less confident readers, and thus have lower reading skills than their peers who are girls. This affects boys' education in many ways. As a whole, boys consistently score lower on all reading based standardized tests than girls. As boys leave elementary school, they are further impacted by their weaker literacy skills because it leads to trouble in high school, higher education and careers. In fact, boys who struggle with literacy are less likely to pursue higher education and less likely to have stable careers as adults in the future.


Some likely reasons for the literacy gender gap are:


  • Biology: Boys' brains develop differently than girls'. Boys mature more slowly and are more physically active than girls, so girls learn to read earlier than boys, comprehend texts better than boys, and have more confidence in their reading than boys.
  • Text Choice: A lot of the typical texts that are represented in the classroom or regarded as "school appropriate" don't necessarily appeal to boys. Research has found that boys enjoy reading comic books or graphic novels, humorous stories, horror stories, adventure and action stories, stories with superheroes, magazines, etc. Meanwhile, girls seem to like stories that deal with relationships, emotions, etc.
  • Lack of Mentors: The majority of the readers that boys are exposed to at a young age are women: the primary at home reader for children is typically the mother and the majority of teachers are women. This contributes to boys seeing reading as a feminine activity that is not "appropriate", socially, for them to enjoy.

Motivation Strategies for Boys

Unfortunately, there is not much that we can do to curb the effects of biology on reading motivation for boys. However, educators can make a difference by offering a variety of text choices that appeal to their male students and inviting male role models in to the classroom. In order to to appeal to boys' reading preferences, educators can poll their students to see what types of texts they would want to read. Then teachers can visit the school or community library to select examples of these texts for their students to choose from to read during independent reading time.


Family members, male teachers, administration, or other male community members can be invited to come in to the classroom and read aloud to the students or talk about their experiences with reading. Showing students that men also enjoy reading can show students that it is acceptable to be a boy who loves to read!

Motivational Speaker Danny Brassell | Getting Boys to Read
Boys Literacy - Engaging Boys in Reading

Everyone can love reading!

References

Applegate, A.J., & Applegate, M.D. (2010). A study of thoughtful literacy and motivation to

read. The Reading Teacher, 64 (4), 226-234.

http://dx.doi.org.jproxy.lib.ecu.edu/10.1598/RT.64.4.1


Brozo, W.G., Sulkunen, S., Shiel, G., Garbe, C., Pandian, A., & Valtin, R. (2014). Reading, gender, and engagement. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 57 (7), 584-593. Doi:10.1002/jaal.291


Cambria, J., & Guthrie, J. (2010). Motivating and engaging students in reading. New England Reading Association Journal, 46 (1), 16-29. http://literacyconnects.org/img/2013/03/Motivating-and-engaging-students-in-reading-Cambria-Guthrie.pdf


Gates, A.I.. (1961). Sex differences in reading ability. The Elementary School Journal, 61 (8), 431-434. http://www.jstor.org/stable/999823


Henry, K., Lagos, A., & Berndt, F. (2012). Bridging the literacy gap between boys and girls: An opportunity for the national year of reading 2012. Australian Library Journal, 61 (2), 143-150. http://alia.org.au/publishing/alj/


Marinak, B.A., & Gambrell, L.B. (2010). Reading motivation: Exploring the elementary gender gap. Literacy Research & Instruction, 49 (2), 129-141. doi:10.1080/19388070902803795


Senn, N. (2012). Effective approaches to motivate and engage reluctant boys in literacy. The Reading Teacher, 66 (3), 211-220. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/TRTR.01107


Serafini, F. (2013). Supporting boys as readers. The Reading Teacher, 67 (1), 40-42. http://dx.doi.org.jproxy.lib.ecu.edu/10.1002/TRTR.1187


Sokal, L. Katz, H., Adkins, M., Glaud, A., Jackson-Davis, K., & Kussin, B. (2005). Boys will be “boys”: Variability in boys’ experience of literacy. Alberta Journal of Educational Research, 51 (3), 216-230. http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Laura_Sokal/publication/247162439_Boys_will_be_Boys_Variability_in_boys_experiences_of_literacy/links/550b47cd0cf28556409705bd.pdf