Girls and boys often have different tastes in reading. This is not an issue when teachers are able to offer children a choice of genre for independent reading but it is an issue when teachers must select a text that will be of interest to the whole class.
A new study in the Journal of Research on Reading says teachers should consider children’s identification with masculine or feminine traits when making reading selections.
“Throughout childhood, children’s identification with masculine and feminine qualities develops based on feedback from their environment,” the author writes.
Gender identification is also influenced by sex modeling others (e.g., parents, peers) and direct teaching of gender-appropriate behavior. Gender identification fluctuates during childhood.
In this UK study of 223 children aged 8 to 10 years, the researcher found that girls who identified with masculine traits and boys who identified with feminine traits were more motivated to read gender-neutral books.
In general, girls are motivated to read books preferred by girls (romance/relationships, realistic teen fiction and animal-related texts, horror/ghost and adventure) and boys are motivated to read books preferred by boys (science fiction/fantasy, comedy, sports related and war/spy related). Even children who were motivated to read gender-neutral books were seldom motivated to transcend gender boundaries by reading books preferred by the opposite sex, the researcher reports. This is especially true for boys.
The Children’s Sex Role Inventory Short Form was used to examine children’s gender identities.
Throughout childhood and adolescence, reading is typically seen as a more feminine activity with girls reporting that they value reading more than boys, according to the study. Interventions should be aimed at changing this perspective and at finding better ways to engage boys in reading, the researcher adds.
“Sex or gender identity? Understanding children’s reading choices and motivation,” by Sarah McGeown, Journal of Research in Reading, 2015, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp. 35-46.