Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Do Boys Really Have a Reading Problem?

Today's Washington Post explores the controversy over whether boys are really facing a growing literacy crisis or not.

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This is not only a U.S. phenomenon. One UK professor mentioned in the article discovered gender gaps in reading ability in more than 20 countries studied, with boys trailing badly in every one, despite differences in school systems and pedagogical traditions.

The Post offers many hypotheses for the situation: biological differences in boys's and girls' language abilities, boys' greater restlessness at a young age, teaching methods, the kinds of reading materials used in the classroom (which some argue do not appeal to many young boys), boys' lack of interest in books, etc.

Coincidentally, the French-language public broadcaster Radio-Canada has also recently been looking into the subject of boys and reading in a report entitled "Mais que lisent donc nos garçons?" (What in the world are our boys reading?).

There is indeed a gap separating boys and girls, with many more boys than girls dropping out of high school in Quebec, but the Radio-Canada reporters were surprised to find out that many of the boys they interviewed actually enjoy reading and even like receiving books as presents (though not as much as toys). This is contrary to all the horror stories that are bandied about concerning hyperactive and reading-averse boys.

As for why many boys do not read well or do not like reading, the boys interviewed criticized the lists of mandatory books imposed on them by teachers and school boards. This was thought to "kill the pleasure," in the words of one young fellow.

Many did agree however that imposing a minimum number of books to read in the school year was a valid idea, but the number should not be too overwhelming. And the golden rule suggested by the boys was to leave the choice of reading material up to each pupil.

As the Radio-Canada report concludes: "...adults need to have a very open mind about the choice of reading material by youngsters and allow them the freedom to like less sophisticated works."


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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:59 pm


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