First the good news: boys are reading as much as girls. Now the bad: the books they choose are far less challenging and easier to comprehend than those selected by girls and this gets worse as they grow older.
The findings of a major study of 100,000 children's reading habits coincide with national curriculum test results which show that — at all ages — girls score more highly on reading tests.
“Boys are clearly reading nearly as much as girls, a finding that may surprise some onlookers,” said Professor Keith Topping, of the University of Dundee's school of education, who headed the study. “But boys are tending to read easier books than girls. The general picture was of girls reading books of a consistently more difficult level than boys.”
The gap in the standard of their reading habits becomes most marked between the ages of 13 and 16, the report says. The favourite girl's book in this age group is Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer, the first in the vampire romance series that has sold 85m copies worldwide. This was ranked far more difficult to read than the boys' favourite, The Dark Never Hides, from the British novelist Peter Lancett's Dark Man |series, illustrated fantasy novels aimed at reluctant teens and young adults struggling to read.
The study notes that both sexes tend to choose books that are easier to read once they reach the age of 11 and transfer to secondary school. Compared with a similar study two years ago, the Harry Potter author JK Rowling has tumbled down the top 10 most popular children's authors, from second to ninth place.