The Understanding Boys’ (Dis)engagement with Reading for Pleasure research project has developed new understanding of why boys – particularly those from low socio-economic backgrounds - are more likely to be disengaged with reading for pleasure.
The project drew on observations of practice in four primary schools in different parts of England, representing diverse communities. Interviews with staff and pupils, including boys and some girls, helped us gather views of reading.
We found that when a view of reading as proficiency was combined with negative assumptions about the boys and their social background, it could lead to boys becoming stuck with the label of ‘struggling’ readers. In many cases these boys had limited access to anything except formal literacy lessons, and were not able to access effective Reading for Pleasure pedagogies.
The project highlighted the importance of supporting teachers in developing reading beyond proficiency to also include children’s individual interests and volition as readers. It also identified the value of reflecting on how unconscious perceptions of social identities can impact on how boys are viewed, and labelled, as readers. It argues that changes in pedagogy can help ‘struggling’ boy readers to move beyond the label and find more positive identities as readers.