"Study shows boys and books don't mix", said the Dom-Post headline on Saturday. "Boys think reading books is for girls..."
In fact the study, by teacher Sheryl Wright, showed nothing of the kind. What it did show was that Year 7 boys (aged around 11) had two different opinions of reading books, depending on whether they were talking to the researcher by themselves or in a group of boys.
"The minute I got them into the group they started the subtle put-downs...It was all 'that's a girl's book' or 'you're a girl', whereas while they were talking one-on-one they were happy to say they read books."
This fits perfectly with what a major NZ study of gender and education found. To lift boys' achievement, we have to tackle the way "reading books", and study in general, is cast as "for girls", and the way boys endlessly police each other to hold the line. (When they're older they don't just say it's for girls, they say it's "gay" - an even worse slur on the masculinity of any boy seen to be flouting the rules.)
Wright says, too, that having a male in the house reading for pleasure is "incredibly powerful for boys", and that if you can find a series they like - such as Harry Potter - you've got them hooked.
I find it fascinating that after so many years of seeing girls as just naturally deficient in various ways (to explain why they did less well than boys in education), followed by working out how sexism was holding girls back, we're now having to understand how sexism holds boys back too.