Thursday, being World Book Day, I took my current read into school, as suggested – Proust And The Squid by Maryanne Wolf. Although it is pure coincidence of timing, it seemed to me that there could be no book more fitting. Aware that the title did not automatically yield clues to content, I said simply, “it’s about reading and the brain.” Most pupils had a quick look at the front cover. Only one, a girl in S1, read the back cover – and then said, “cool.”
I thought that this would be the ideal opportunity to conduct a short survey on reading habits. The aim was to have four straightforward questions and for the entire process to last 30 seconds, so as not to intrude on lesson time. The sample group represent, I would contend, the motivated pupil – people prepared to carry an instrument to school at least once-a-week; prepared to practise 5 days-a-week at home; prepared to catch up on work missed while at their instrumental lesson; prepared to spend lunchtimes and Friday afternoons rehearsing in school and local authority ensembles; prepared to represent the school in several concerts each year.
The sample comprised 23 pupils – 13 boys and 10 girls – the age range S1 – S6. Percentages have been rounded up/down to the nearest whole number.
Question 1: Apart from school reading, are you reading anything else – for interest or pleasure?
Whole group – 48% Boys – 38% Girls – 80%
Question 2: Is there a book which you plan to get round to reading?
Whole group – 65% Boys – 54% Girls – 80%
Question 3: Do you ever read a book more than once?
Whole group – 48% Boys – 23% Girls – 80%
Question 4: Do you enjoy writing – anything at all – even funny emails to friends?
Whole group – 52% Boys – 31% Girls – 80%
The difference is those currently reading for pleasure and those planning to read could be explained by the timing of the survey – various SQA folios were due in by the end of the week; the SQA Music practical exams were imminent. The interest in re-reading seemed the most straightforward way of trying to distinguish those who read to find out what happened next from those who experienced some joy in the language or created world within any given book. Almost without exception, the response to being asked about enjoying writing was, “school stuff?” The tone implied horror at the very suggestion that this could be enjoyable. Perhaps this conveyed a feeling of being beset by deadlines.
Assuming that we all believe reading and writing to be good things, it seems clear that boys are missing out somewhat.
Had the survey been about dance, the statistics would have been more stark. It seems that almost all girls on my timetables are involved in some kind of dance activity in or out of school. To the best of my knowledge no boys are.