Gender gap in children’s reading has grown in the UK during lockdown

A new study has suggested that during the UK’s lockdown boys have fallen even further behind girls when it comes to reading regularly and enjoying it.

This finding has prompted fresh fears that young boys could be at risk at losing out academically as a direct result of the coronovirus pandemic.

The report from the National Literacy Trust (NLT) says that greater access to audio-books at school and at home may help to re-engage boys with literacy as those were the most popular methods of consumption with those studied.

Fiona Evans, the director of schools programmes at the NLT, has called for more schools to create what she calls “audio libraries,” and for more fathers and grandfathers to take an active role in encouraging more reading amongst young boys.


The research, based on surveys of children aged eight to 18 in the UK before and during lockdown, has found that more girls and boys have been reading daily and have said they enjoy reading while at home, but that the gap between the two has increased five fold.

Three in five girls (60.2%) have said that they enjoy reading during lockdown, compared with 48.9% beforehand, while only 48.7% of boys said they enjoyed reading amid the pandemic, compared with 46.6% before the lockdown.

More girls than boys said that they read in their free time pre-lockdown and this trend appears to have continued, with the gap widening in recent months

“It remains to be seen whether these changes are sustained or whether a return to school and a degree of known normality will help boys catch up,” the report concludes.

While reading appears to be the favourite of girls slightly more boys (around 25% to 22.4%) have said they had listened to audio-books during lockdown with more than half of those boys saying audio-books had given them more interest in reading in general.

Audio-books may be a way to encourage more boys to read

Audio-books may have a “cool factor” that encouraged the boys to use them, Evans said, as they are able to listen to them on their phone with headphones so as not share what they have chosen to read.

Perhaps the fact that many audio-books are voiced by well known actors may have encourage boys to try them out, she added

A total of 58,346 children aged nine to 18 in the UK were surveyed between January and mid-March 2020; and 4,141 children aged eight to 18 were surveyed between May and early June 2020.

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