Academic underachievement for boys is gaining significant attention in the media lately. Boys are underperforming girls on benchmark and standardized tests, and this is a major concern for both educators and parents.

Following the wave of the women’s rights movement in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, educators worked to eliminate the biased approach that could be harmful towards girls and their education.  Many researchers on the topic have concluded that due to this imbalance among the genders, that many in the education system overcompensated in an effort to prevent “shortchanging” girls; some say at the expense of boys and their education.

Evidence shows that since the 1970’s, reading rates and literacy skills among boys have declined and this trend continues today.

Why does this steady decline persist

A lack of male role models could be to blame.  Boys are beginning to recognize reading and schooling in general as “girlie”. There are more female teachers and female librarians encouraging literacy, and reading may appear to be feminine to the male student.  Also, in some families, there is a lack male role models demonstrating reading in the home, which may be contributing to the issue.

The way boys are being taught might be considered as well. According to some, classrooms are too structured and often suppress boys’ energetic natures and tendency for physical expression. Also, the material offered (and sometimes forced) is thought of as “boring” to a young male reader.

And of course, there may be concerns to the male student of the social implications associated with traditional literature and reading. A classmate may be teased or bullied for being a “nerd” or “bookworm”.

Can we help to reverse this alarming trend?

Yes.

We first must ensure that children, both male and female, are being taught to read properly. A phonics program presented in a systematic and sequential manner is ideal. This method will reach those with learning disabilities such as dyslexia and ADHD, as well as teaching natural readers proper decoding skills.

We as parents and educators must set examples- specifically men. A boy needs a strong role model that encourages literacy and academics and that demonstrates that reading can be “cool”. We need to provide reading materials that are of a high-interest to male readers. This could include science-fiction novels, a sports magazine or even comic books. We also need to praise our boys when they do choose to read, regardless of the material.

What are you doing at home to incite a love for reading, specifically with the young male reader? We'd love to hear about it!