A week ago Thursday while I was eating breakfast I happened to read a David Brooks op-ed in my local paper. Brooks begins his piece on why boys don't read as much as girls with a nod to the "angst and Orwell" study that came out earlier this year, then claims that the books women chose as their favorites are "a lot better than the books the men chose." Considering that this was a David Brooks column, I immediately smelled a trap.
By the end of the article, sure enough, Brooks has put boys' falling reading rates on the shoulders of schools that force boys to sit still and subject them to consciousness-raising material, which, of course, fall under the category of books with female protagonists. Boys should be taught more Hemingway, Tolstoy, Homer and Twain or else the schools will turn "many of them into high school and college drop-outs who hate reading."
Later in the day I followed a link to a Boris Johnson piece in the Telegraph that opined as well on the falling reading rates among men, in a much more obnoxious, yet entertaining way. I was quite heartened still later to come across The Kids and Family Reading Report, which does not address the differences between males and females at all, but indicates that parents need to become more involved, not less, when their children become independent readers—by serving as reading models and by helping their kids and teens find books of interest. Thirty-one percent of kids are classified as "high frequency" readers; although 74 percent of parents say reading is the most important skill their children can have, only 21 percent of parents read daily themselves.
But before I could pull anything together for a post on these items, all my time and energy went into caring for the pug.
Fast forward to yesterday, when I discovered Victoria's fabulous insights in "Women, Books and Boris," and this Washington Post article, which casts doubts on a gender crisis in the schools (it appears to be more one of race and class): "much of the pessimism about young males seems to derive from inadequate research, sloppy analysis and discomfort with the fact that although the average boy is doing better, the average girl has gotten ahead of him."
I hope this means boys can be expected to have a Margaret Atwood or a Harper Lee mixed in with their Hemingway and Homer in the schools now without the adults having full-scale hissy fits.
And I hope more parents will take their kids to the bookstore or the library, and that they'll chose something for themselves on the trip.