Boys and School: A New Study

Monday April 5, 2010

A new study published last month by the Center on Education Policy was bad news for boys. This study called “the lagging performance by boys in reading …the most pressing gender-gap issue facing our schools.” This trend is consistent in elementary, middle and high school, according to the study. State trends show that boys and girls are performing similarly in math, but boys are lagging behind in reading.


Some would argue that reading isn’t boys’ thing. They’re more geared toward the mathematical, the logical. Some would say boys are action-oriented; they like hands-on, kinesthetic learning. Others contend that school itself is geared more toward girls than boys. Still others point out that this bad news isn’t true for all boys.

There’s an element of truth in all these ideas. As a high school teacher, I see daily the gender gap in reading – and also in writing.

What’s a boy mom to do?

Start early. Surround your boy with the written and spoken word.

Encourage him to talk. Get him used to the spoken word by narrating life for him before he even speaks. Once he begins talking, ask him questions and listen. When you read, ask about the facts of the story and ask how he feels about it. When you watch television together, do the same.

Encourage him to read. Every baby needs books. Cloth books are great for the crib, plastic ones rock in the tub. Board books are perfect for toddlers. And for boys, capitalize on what they love! Get a book on wheels, or one shaped like a train. In the car, listen to books on CD.

Encourage him to write. Long before my boys could write, they would tell me a story and I’d write it down. Then we’d make a book and my son would illustrate. We’d staple it together, cover it in construction paper, and – voila – an author was born! I know moms who have set up word files or blogs for their boys and a daily activity is to write something. Several of my boys have blogs, and it’s great to read what they’re thinking.

Although a number of my male high school students readily admit that reading and writing aren’t their favorites, they know these skills will be vital to their success in college. So do all you can to acclimate your boys to the world of reading and writing -- it will only help them in the future.

For more on boys and school, check out the Michael Gurian link in this post.

What’s been your experience with your boy and school? Have you found a way to acclimate your son to the world of words?

For the love of boys,


Victoria said...

The experiences of my brother and I in elementary school (in a very small private school with excellent teachers, no less) strongly reinforce what you say. I'm an avid reader, and I can't begin to tell you when my brother last picked up a book. His reading skills have never been as strong and none of his teachers were ever able or willing to find the problem and solve it. Same thing for my (lack of) math skills. As adults we've found ways to live with our weaknesses but it caused us both real problems in school, especially in the upper grades.

MollyinMinn said...

We are lucky in that my boys' school really encourages them to learn in their own way and to read about, talk about, report about, etc. things that interest them. While they are both very different kids with very different learning styles, they have both really come into their own as students there.

Heather said...

Just wanted to say thanks for the ideas that you listed got me thinking of different things I could do with my boys!

Anonymous said...

I take my toddler son to Storytime at the library each week and he is one of a handful of boys among two dozen girls. I commented on this fact to a friend and she said something to the effect of boys being less interested in reading in general. Being the daughter, sister, wife, and mother of male book lovers, I was shocked at the suggestion, but this study proves that she certainly isn't alone in noting it. Thanks for drawing my attention to it!

Andrea said...

Lauren, you are so right about boys being less inclined toward reading. That fact was also my experience when I was teaching, so I am not surprised by the study.

Your advice is absolutely awesome! I only wish I had followed that advice when I was raising my two sons and when I was teaching.

I hope you had a wonderful Easter!

Much love,


Unknown said...

my older were/are MAth Nos.. not Reading Boys. My oldest was playing chess at 3, doing algebra at 5, BUT couldn't even say/sound the whole alphabet till the end of 2nd grade.
Did the school praise/encourage his math/science abilities? NO WAY. not 1 single bit. They just harped on his lack of reading and talked to me about how if I had done "this that and the other" he'd be reading by now. I did "ALL of those things & then some" since he was born. Read with him, to him, let him explore books, told stories, encouraged stories, played imagination games, let him see me read, etc.. He just wasn't a 'word kid'
After 1st grade- we homeschooled

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