A focus on books that model good behaviour is preventing boys from reading, children's writer Joy Cowley says.
The newly-minted Member of the Order of New Zealand says female teachers and librarians are not recommending the right books for boys, avoiding books with violence or disobedience.
"I think they're concerned about political messages - about teaching children to be good, responsible, patriotic loyal citizens," Cowley said.
"Medical experts tell us that an eight-year-old boy has as much testosterone as an adult and it's got to go somewhere or it will ricochet off the walls so they need books that will get them reading.
"They want action, they want books about hunting and fishing, they want hero stories, action stories and they're not getting them."
She says she will be advocating for more men to be involved in choosing books for libraries and awards when she makes a speech on the issue at a New Zealand Book Council event next year.
But Mariette Dodd has been teaching secondary school English since 1989 and says she hasn't found a gender discrepancy when it comes to reading.
"Boys are already into books or not by the time they are arrive in high school ... So a lot depends on what happens at home," she said.
"It's really often the situation that boys don't read because they've only ever been given crappy novels to read, or because (sadly) their English teachers are still trying to get them to study novels that are simply no longer relevant.
"Generally speaking, boys are less tolerant of bulls*** in their choice of reading material ... They prefer things to be slightly more 'raw', more contemporary, more 'gritty'."
The Book Council conducted a workshop in November with 25 year six, seven and eight boys who were reluctant readers to find out what would get them interested in reading.
Chief Executive Jo Cribb said many of the boys didn't want to read because reading was seen as "uncool" and for boys who were "lonely, bad at sport and nerdy".
The research found boys wanted books that were practical "how-to guides" on topics they wanted to know about, such as how to win basketball and video games.
They also wanted stories about real people's lives.