You may or may not be aware of the ever-increasing academic gap between girls and boys. In the last thirty years, female students have not only caught up to the male students, but have even surpassed them in academic achievement. More girls are on the National Honor Society, have a higher grade point average and are earning more of the college diplomas awarded.
Many experts believe this gap is due to an early delay in reading. We also know that boys are more commonly diagnosed with learning disabilities like ADD, ADHD and Dyslexia.
Jon Scieszka, author of children's books such as The Stinky Cheese Man and the Time Warp Trio series created a website devoted to correcting the continually growing issue of boys’ literacy. His website Guys Read reports of some staggering statistics:
The U.S. Department of Education reading tests for the last 30 years show boys scoring worse than girls in every age group, every year.
Eighth grade boys are 50 percent more likely to be held back than girls.
Two-thirds of Special Education Students in high school are boys.
Overall college enrollment is higher for girls than boys. He also suggests that boys may be having problems because:
Biologically, boys are slower to develop than girls and often struggle with reading and writing skills early on.
The action-oriented, competitive learning style of many boys works against them learning to read and write.
Many books boys are asked to read don’t appeal to them. They aren’t motivated to want to read.
As a society, we teach boys to suppress feelings. Boys aren’t practiced and often don’t feel comfortable exploring the emotions and feelings found in fiction.
Boys don’t have enough positive male role models for literacy. Because the majority of adults involved in kids’ reading are women, boys might not see reading as a masculine activity.
How can we fix it?
According to Richard Whitmire’s book, “Why Boys Fail: Saving Our Sons from an Educational System that’s Leaving Them Behind”, the educational system needs to restructure how reading is taught. He relates an experience of discovering a country that is correcting the problem and doing it right.
“The journey to answer the question of why boys suddenly lose interest in school eventually led me to Australia, where the government sponsors research that schools use to buck up the boys, who, like the boys in the United States, lag well behind the girls. In just one year, using techniques such as switching to a reading program that relies more on phonics, breaking the curriculum into manageable ''chunks'' to help the organizationally challenged boys, introducing some single-sex classrooms, and arranging parent-teacher conferences well before exams rather than after the tests to give parents a heads up if their children were in trouble, Blue Mountains Grammar evened out the gender imbalances among its best students.”
A systematic, sequential phonics program will help any struggling reader, even those with Dyslexia and other disorders. Presenting reading materials that interest boys will help encourage the young readers. Also, strong male influences demonstrating that reading is cool and can be a masculine activity is sure to have an impact.
What do you think?