Girls have overtaken boys in the literacy stakes when it comes to reading, both in their ability to understand what they read and in their tendency to read for pleasure.
More girls than boys spend at least 30 minutes a day reading for pleasure in all OECD countries with the exception of Korea, according to Knowledge and Skills for Life: First Results from PISA 2000 (see article by Donald Hirsch).
Brazilian girls are the most avid readers, with almost 70% of them spending more than half an hour a day reading for pleasure. And the most reluctant bookworms are boys in the Netherlands and Liechtenstein, where less than 20% read for pleasure. On average across OECD countries, 46% of boys said they read only if they had to, compared with just 26% of girls. Magazines and newspapers top the list for both boys and girls, with fiction the second most popular choice for girls and comic books for boys.
The PISA study of education and knowledge levels of 15-year-old students across the OECD found that while girls have generally narrowed the gap with boys in terms of overall educational achievement in the past 30 years, they remain behind in mathematical literacy and also, though to a lesser extent, in science. But the main concern is about the underachievement of boys. When it comes to reading, males in all OECD countries are more likely than females to be among the lowest-performing students. And in all countries except Korea, girls are over-represented in the more demanding upper secondary programmes preparing for entry to university.
©OECD Observer No 230, January 2002