Category Archives: Education

The child reading gender gap


Child reading a book
Child reading

I’ve been fascinated by a survey by

They surveyed 904 parents of children aged between four and twelve years old about their bedtime reading routines. Surprisingly (for me) there was a difference in whether children were read to at night based on the gender of the child.

67% of parents with only daughters read to them more than four times per week whereas 33% of parents with only sons read to them more than four times per week.

Interestingly, 29% of parents with both sons and daughters admitted to reading more often to their daughters.

Many parents also admitted that their sons were more interested in playing on the iPad before bedtime.

I can’t help but feel sad that boys are getting the rough end of the stick here. Yes they might love playing on screen before bedtime but they are missing out on a lovely opportunity to bond with their parents over a magical adventure or fantasy story.

Some of my favourite moments are when I get to sit down with my youngest two (a boy and a girl for the record) and read a chapter from a story. They love reading by themselves too so we don’t do this every night these days but it does mean that they get to hear a more challenging book than they might read to themselves. We get to talk about the vocabulary – they are always allowed to interrupt to ask what a word or phrase means – and we find ourselves discussing the story at random times of day.

According to a Scholastic report 83% of children love being read aloud to. The only thing that surprises me here is that the figure isn’t higher.

And finally, 39% of fathers admitted they never or very rarely read to their children (compared to only 4% of mothers). This is a tricky one. Many fathers don’t come in from work before the children are in bed and yes, I know it’s sexist and old fashioned but bedtime has long been seen as the mother’s domain. But even so, if boys don’t see that reading is something that daddy does, then maybe they don’t see that it’s something they should do either.

Perhaps it’s not surprising then that boys in general under perform in reading tests compared with girls. And could it be changed by more bedtime reading at home?

How to Read a Mind

A free online course about understanding literary characters’ minds begins next week.  Run in conjunction with Future Learn and The University of Nottingham, it’s a short two week course in the field of what is known as cognitive poetics.

And if that sounds a bit technical, don’t be put off.  It’s about applying the science of cognition to how we read and process literature.

So if you’re a reader or a writer of fiction then this course should help to explain why we feel the way we do about fictional characters.  Why do they make us angry, sad or happy? Why do their lives matter to us?

I don’t know about you but when I’ve read a book where I’ve identified strongly with one or more of the characters, I feel sadness when I get to the end.  Why is that?  When a great character dies – why do I grieve? (I have to confess I have cried over countless characters’ deaths – even non-human ones such as Dobby in Harry Potter).

It sounds like a really interesting course and I’m looking forward to it starting next Monday.  There are no limits to who can join (as far as I’m aware) so if you’d like more information or to sign up, then click here  or follow the chat on twitter with hashtag #FLread or follow lead educator @PeterJStockwell

The Referendum for kids

Today I’m going to copy a post from fellow journalist Ellie Levenson which gives a fairly simple, balanced overview to the referendum for kids.  Ellie wrote this to help promote her new children’s book – The Election – see the link at the bottom for more information.  (I wish there was an adult equivalent.  It would be more helpful than all the half-truths and smears bandied around over the last few weeks).

On Thursday grown ups in our country, the United Kingdom, are allowed to vote on whether we stay in the European Union (EU) or not. This type of voting is called a referendum.

The European Union is like a club. All the countries that are members agree to do some things the same. For example, let people live in any of the countries also in the club, sell each other things without paying extra money, and have some of the same laws.

There are four main areas people are thinking about when deciding whether to remain a member or leave.

1) The Economy
People who want to remain think that our country will have more money if we stay in the European Union. People who want to leave think that our country will have more money if we leave the European Union. If the country has more money then we can have better services such as more doctors, nurses, libraries and schools, and there will be more jobs so people will also have more money to spend.

2) Immigration
People from countries in the EU are allowed to live and work in any other country in the EU. When people come to live in a new country it is called immigration. People who want to leave the EU think that we should only allow some people to come and live here because they don’t think we have enough space or houses or jobs for everyone and they worry it stops the United Kingdom from feeling British. People who want to stay in the EU think that anyone from the EU should have the opportunity to live in any other country and that having people from lots of countries living here makes our country more exciting because we get to share different types of food and music and art and because those people help do jobs in our country and think of ways to make life better for everyone. They also think it is the right thing to do because anyone who wants to have the opportunity to get a good job and to give their family a nice life should be allowed to. People who want to leave the EU worry that that people from countries who are not part of the EU club will come into other countries in the EU and then find it easy to get to this country. People who want to stay in the EU mainly think that if someone is unhappy in their country, either because there is war or not enough food or no jobs or because they can’t live their life the way they want to, then they should be allowed to live here while we work with other countries to make their country a safe place for people to live.

3) Workers’ Rights
Many of the laws that help people at work are because we are a member of the EU and have to have the same laws as the other countries in the EU. An example is if your mummy was allowed to have some time not working when you were a baby but still got paid, or if your parents can have holidays from work while being paid, and people not being able to work so many hours that they are too tired. People who want to leave the EU either think these laws are not important or that we don’t need the EU to help us make these laws.

4) Peace
A long time ago, probably when your grandparents’ own mummies and daddies and grandmas and grandpas were alive, there were wars in Europe and our country was involved. War is when countries fight each other. When we are in the same club like the EU it means that if countries have an argument with each other then they are more likely to sort it out by talking than by fighting. This is very important because when countries fight they use guns and bombs and people get hurt and can die. People who want to stay in the EU think that there is less chance of our country fighting other countries if we are in the same club.

Whichever way the country votes, you don’t need to worry about it. Grown ups vote for a government and it is their job to sort things out so that you are safe and can have a happy life. But it is important to understand what the grown ups are talking about and voting for, so that when you are a grown up you can have a say and make the world better for everyone.

Like this? Please share it. And if you want to explain General Elections to your child do buy our book The Election by Eleanor Levenson and Marek Jagucki, a non partisan story book for 3-8 year olds that explains about voting, elections and democracy.