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Reading Agency survey finds 63% of men rarely read

we-could-readIn a saddening, disappointing report, The Reading Agency has found that as many as 63% of men have given up reading books almost altogether in favour of television and movies. Of these 63%, 30% went so far as to say that they hadn’t done any reading worth mentioning since they left school.

I have to say that although at first I raised an eyebrow at this – forgetting that the online circles I move in are full of readers – when I thought about the people I know in real life I’m kind of surprised it is only 30% who admitted not reading since school. I was reading before kickboxing just a week ago and people looked at me as if I was doing something incredibly out of the ordinary (note: not making fun of me – I’d kick their arses 😉 but certainly as if I was doing something not socially acceptable/expected).

In addition to movies and television being more convenient, reasons given by those who filled out the survey were predominantly that they were too busy, they did not actually enjoying the activity of reading and that they preferred to spend time on the internet.

I guess the one saving grace is that the survey, conducted by OnePoll, had input from only 2,000 British men and women. That said, the results were enough to prompt concern in a number of literary figures; author Andy McNab said that he feels: ‘We have got to keep [boys] reading because once they stop, they never start again. It doesn’t matter what they read, we just need to get them into the habit of it and then keep them doing it” and Sue Wilkinson, c.e.o. of the Reading Agency, agreed saying: “We know reading is really important, so we’ve got to get more people in general, particularly men, to pick up a book. Her given solution is to: “remind them of the pleasure that can be derived from reading a book as well. This year’s World Book Night list of 20 books was selected with these young men in mind.’

This has been a running theme in the UK press for a while now: ‘we do not read enough’. Indeed, for those that missed it last year, Neil Gaiman gave a lecture focusing on the future of reading and libraries which particular emphasis on children and young people. In the lecture, the bestselling author advocates his belief in the importance of reading for pleasure and our obligations as readers, writers and citizens’ to support reading for pleasure:

“Well meaning adults can easily destroy a child’s love of reading – do not discourage children from reading because you feel they’re reading the wrong thing. There is no such thing as the wrong thing to be reading and no bad fiction for kids.” – Neil Gaiman

You can read a full transcript of this lecture on The Reading Agency’s website.

World Book Night, mentioned by Sue Wilkinson above, takes part on April 23rd. The idea is that people sign up to be a ‘Community Book Giver’ and give out at least one book to someone in their community who might benefit from it. If you have close friends who don’t read, perhaps it would be a great time to buy them a gift and – if you think their tastes suit – introduce them to the world of Fantasy fiction? 🙂

As an individual who is on a mission to expose as many people to reading as possible and the owner of a website that was set up to promote good books, as you’d probably expect, I’m VERY much into the idea of handing out awesome books to people who don’t usually read – especially when it’s fantasy. In fact, late last year I called for the community to ‘share fantasy on World Book Night‘ and I think this kind of report adds further credence to my suggestion.

As I said then, if you share my opinion that more people in our communities should be exposed to fantasy and perhaps shown that it isn’t just a genre to be read by the hardcore fans who like dressing up as Hobbits, I’d love for you to join in by giving away a couple of your second hand books (there are details on how to get hold of bookplates and such that explain World Book Night here) to people who don’t usually read for whatever reason and show them the wisdom in the words uttered by genre-giant George R.R. Martin that whereas ‘a reader lives a thousand lives before he dies… The man who never reads lives only one.’

Note, I’m obviously from the UK, but the US also has a version of World Book Night that is different to the UK’s, but is on the same date, April 23rd 2014. They have a wider variety of titles in there for you to give out too:
Click here to find out more about World Book Night US



  1. Avatar algon 33 says:

    That is really sad. I think it may have to do with the association of books with ‘nerds’. So many don’t want to appear to into it, so most men won’t read, which produces and environment were reading is not ‘cool’, or at least there is an undercurrent of it. A vicious cycle indeed.

  2. Avatar Natalie says:

    That’s a shame. Now that I think about it most of the guys I know don’t read and actually look down on it. They’ll happily watch Game of Thrones, yet when I say the books are worth reading to get a deeper insight into the characters, I get a blank stare. I’d also be curious about how this compares to women.

    I think what you read is important too, though. I love Fantasy because there’s generally a lot of depth to it- I don’t know anyone that reads it in real life. Most of the women I know will readily admit they read throw away fiction, simplistic she-said-he-said stuff akin to watching soap operas. Of course there’s nothing wrong with that, Iread easier books from time to time as well, but by just reading the easier books I think they’re missing out on what reading really has to offer over watching tv, which is a shame.

  3. Avatar Splicer says:

    There’s a lot to be said about coming home from work so mentally destroyed that you just can’t go through the effort of reading. I read but it takes me months to get through one book.

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