In Defense of Boys Who Don’t Read As Well As Girls
Boys have a bad reputation when it comes to reading. Conventional wisdom says that boys don’t read as well as girls, and even when boys are capable enough to read as well, boys tend to skim more material and skip pages.
At least, according to this study, boys don’t read as closely. I don’t always trust studies like this. Too many things can go wrong or be done incorrectly, but I don’t necessarily disagree with the conclusion of the study. I haven’t done any costly, time-consuming research. I’m just using my own personal experiences and anecdotal evidence.
Full disclosure: I’m a male who is supposedly a pretty good reader, and I know exactly what this study is talking about. I skip pages (every once in a while), and I skim. I’ve even taken credit for reading books which I’ve never even opened (but I don’t do that anymore).
Instead of complaining about boys’ poor reading habits, I want to explain why it happens. To do this, I have to use some stereotypes and generalities. When I say “boys,” I don’t mean all boys, and when I say “girls,” I don’t mean all girls. If you don’t fit the gender role that I’m talking about, you don’t need to bash me for it. I’ve already been pre-bashed.
Enough people complain about boys not reading well, and I don’t want to pile on, but it’s pretty simple. Boys don’t read closely because there are other things to do. It’s not practical to read everything. To us, reading is often more like a task to complete than an activity to enjoy.
While growing up, I knew a bunch of boys who didn’t like reading and weren’t that good at it, so I understand the mentality. They saw reading as a waste of time when there was so much living to do. They knew how to read. They were capable of reading. Reading was what they might do if there was nothing else to do.
Boys read less carefully because we/they have other things we want to think about. We tend to be more task-oriented, so we see reading as a goal that must be completed. Even if I’m reading a book for fun, I’ll still have a goal of when I want to finish it. The subconscious goal then becomes more important than the enjoyment of reading the book. Sometimes I’m not even aware of it.
It’s not laziness, as some parents and teachers might imply. Boys don’t pay as close attention because it’s not as important to them. In high school, my best friend couldn’t focus on a textbook, but he could read and memorize a TV Guide. That’s where his priorities were. Since TV Guides aren’t relevant anymore, the kid today who struggles reading history can probably memorize lineups for fantasy football.
Girls, on the other hand, are more likely to become more immersed in the experience of reading a book. Females can get emotionally caught up in a book more than most males do. That’s why women cry more at movies than men do. Part of it is empathy, but a lot of it is that while something emotional is happening in the movie, the woman is caught up in the emotion and the man is calculating how much time is left in the movie.
This applies to our adult conversations as well. When women (such as girlfriends or wives) claim we men are not paying attention, it’s not that we’re ignoring our girlfriends/wives. When women think we men aren’t paying attention, our minds aren’t wandering; we’re just thinking ahead. We’re thinking of other stuff, some of which might be really important. Hopefully that other stuff isn’t other women (but that’s a separate issue).
If anything, we men don’t get enough credit for how much we think. If all that thinking ahead means that boys don’t read as closely as girls, then so be it.
So instead of criticizing boys for not reading as well as girls, we should be encouraging them. Good job, boys! Keep on thinking ahead about other stuff!
It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female. If you like reading, you’ll probably like my ebook, though you might not read it as closely if you’re a guy.