Do boys and girls differ in literary preferences? Does our educational system stress more of a masculine or feminine curriculum?
An essay that I recently read seems to suggest that a literary preference does exist among boys and girls, which causes a significant gender gap where girls consistently outperform boys:
"Although one might expect the schools to be trying hard to make reading appealing to boys, the K-12 literature curriculum may in fact be contributing to the problem. It has long been known that there are strong differences between boys and girls in their literary preferences. According to reading interest surveys, both boys and girls are unlikely to choose books based on an 'issues' approach, and children are not interested in reading about ways to reform society - or themselves. But boys prefer adventure tales, war, sports and historical nonfiction, while girls prefer stories about personal relationships and fantasy. Moreover, when given choices, boys do not choose stories that feature girls, while girls frequently select stories that appeal to boys."
The paragraph that you cite suggests that there are hard data showing that girls tend to prefer one kind of reading matter and that boys tend to prefer another kind (although girls, apparently, are more flexible in their interests). This does not surprise me.
What I found especially interesting about the paragraph you cited, however, was the following sentence:
both boys and girls are unlikely to choose books based on an 'issues' approach, and children are not interested in reading about ways to reform society - or themselves.
In other words, neither boys nor girls seem especially interested in books that are essentially sociological or political tracts, designed to push a particular message or agenda. This does not surprise me, either, but it is welcome news. The tendency to turn the study of literature into the study of everything but literature -- and to treat literary texts as almost anything but literary texts, is one that has long puzzled me. Almost by definition, literature (as literature) is mainly about form and language, not about ideas and political or social agendas.
Maybe if we focused more on the artistic pleasures of literature, rather than the "messages" it contains, more students of both sexes would be interested in reading again.