Literacy and gender

Girl & boy using tablet

National and international research has found gender to be associated with literacy engagement. Indeed, our research shows that the link between gender and literacy is deeply complex, with both many issues and many solutions. We continue to explore this through ongoing research but here are some of our findings.

Key statistics around gender

  • In 2021, 45.6% of boys said that they enjoyed reading, compared with 55.9% of girls. Find out more.
  • However, there are many girls who do not enjoy reading; the 44.1% translates to approximately two million girls across the UK. Find out more.
  • During lockdown, nearly twice as many boys as girls said they chatted to friends and/or family as part of playing a video game (70.5% vs. 39.7%). Find out more. [can we put this in the key findings web page for the report? It's really compelling]
  • In the Early Years, more mothers than fathers engage in home learning activities, with the exception of reading (where there was no difference by gender) and playing outside (which fathers had done more frequently, and mainly with their sons). Find out more.

Gender and COVID-19

During the first lockdown in 2020, the gender gap in reading enjoyment increased five-fold during lockdown from 2.3 to 11.5 percentage points between girls and boys who say they enjoy reading. Similarly, the gender gap in daily reading levels doubled during lockdown, from 4.3 to 7.4 percentage points between girls and boys. Find out more.

Latest research into gender

What else we know about literacy and gender

  • Nearly 1 in 2 (44.3%) children and young people who identify their gender as other than boy or girl say that they struggle to see themselves in what they read compared with 1 in 3 boys (32.7% ) boys and girls (32.5%). Find out more.
  • Half (49.9%) of boys who don’t enjoy reading agree that reading on screen is cooler than reading a print book. Find out more.
  • In 2021, 2 in 5 (39.9%) girls said that they enjoyed writing compared with 1 in 4 boys (27.6%). Find out more.
  • Half (55.5%) of girls say that poor confidence is a barrier to them achieving their aspirations compared with 2 in 5 (41.7%) boys. Find out more.
Girl writing diary

Our work on gender