The biggest change comes in Year 7, which statistically is also when there’s the biggest drop off in reading – especially in boys. Now, it perhaps seems obvious that the withering of originality is greatly caused by reading less. But I think it’s also the other way round: they read less because their creative spark is consistently doused. Their connection with stories, with ideas and imagination, is stifled by the school environment. If the fun has gone from stories, why read?
When boys are at that age, we’re basically just little cave men. We have simple tastes, which – in some cases – we never grow out of. I firmly believe that most of the cave paintings that have been found around the world were painted by men, simply because they are largely pictures of a buffalo or a mammoth being shot in the arse with an arrow. If women had been doing the painting, they would be pictures of marriages, girls becoming best friends, or people sitting round dealing with social issues. Or they might possibly be recording the invention of the shoe (I wasn’t sure if I’d get away with that one). But the boys wanted to shoot a mammoth in the arse with an arrow and six thousand years later, we haven’t changed.