Research

Forgotten Girls: The reluctant girl readers

Added 09 Dec 2021

Girls who don’t enjoy reading or who don’t read in their free time are seldom the focus of interest, despite evidence indicating that this group is sizeable.

Data from our 2021 Annual Literacy Survey, in which 21,696 girls aged 8 to 18 from across the UK participated, indicates that more than 2 in 5 (44.1%) of them don’t enjoy reading. This translates to approximately two million girls in 2020/2021. Furthermore, 1 in 10 (10.2%) girls also said that they rarely or never read in their free time.

Key findings

What we know about girls who don't enjoy reading

  • Not all girls who don’t enjoy reading choose not to read. Indeed, half (49.5%) of this group said they read something at least once a week.
  • More than 2 in 5 (44.1%) girls who don’t enjoy reading said they cannot find things to read that interest them, nearly four times as many as girls who do enjoy reading (11.8%).
  • Girls who don’t enjoy reading struggled to see reading as culturally relevant, with only 1 in 6 (17.3%) agreeing that reading is cool, compared with 3 in 5 (60.5%) girls who enjoy reading.

What we know about girls who don’t read at all in their free time

  • Almost all of this group said they don’t enjoy reading; only 1 in 20 (5.3%) girls who don’t read said that they enjoy reading.
  • Nearly 2 in 3 (63.4%) said that they cannot find things to read that interest them, nearly six times the percentage of girls who read daily who said this (10.9%).

What we know about girls who struggle to read

Data from 286,240 girls who participated in Renaissance’s Star Reading test and Accelerated Reader platform in 2018/2019 complement the findings above:

  • 1 in 5 (around 19%) girls aged 8 to 14 fell into the category of ‘struggling readers'.
  • Approximately twice as many girls aged 6 to 7 were classed as struggling with reading compared with girls aged 10 or older (40.0% vs. 18.3%).
  • While struggling girl readers, on average, spent less time reading than non-struggling girl readers, the number of books read by struggling girl readers in 2018/2019 was virtually equal to the number read by their peers who don’t struggle with reading.
  • However, the books read by struggling girl readers were generally of a lower level of difficulty than those read by their peers, and struggling girl readers were also found to read fewer words overall than their peers who don’t struggle to read.