Over the past several years, gaps between girls’ and boys’ reading abilities have been widening. Even when socio-economic background is taken into consideration, far more boys than girls scored below basic on the most recent National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). Like many disparities in our classrooms, these gaps become increasingly pernicious if not addressed in early elementary school. By fourth grade, the average American boy is two years behind the average American girl in reading.
Gender gaps continue in the upper grades. On average, only two-thirds of male students graduate from high school, a rate 7 percentage points lower than the rate for female students. This is compounded by race. Only 47% of African-American males earn high school diplomas.
What can we do to help our boys? Recent literacy research-based articles and books recommend that educators, parents, and communities must address the crisis of promoting reading success for boys. William Brozo, the author of To Be a Boy, To Be A Reader prefers using the term “imperative educational challenge” rather than “crisis” when talking about boys as readers. He adds that we should frame our discussions about boys in the context of providing “more responsive literacy instruction and interactions for all children.”
William Brozo states, “A boy’s love of reading doesn’t begin with scholarship… it begins with discovery.” He emphasizes the importance of engaging boys in meaningful literacy experiences by finding their entry point to reading. The reading material that first captures a boy’s imagination is the beginning of a lifelong journey of reading. Educators that care and are concerned about the literacy journeys of males should provide many opportunities for most boys to read sports and historical nonfiction, potty humor, horror novels, action-packed graphic novels, fantasy and detective stories.
In Teaching Reading to Black Adolescent Males, Alfred Tatum provides the following four suggestions on how to get boys actively involved with reading:
- Use male-oriented texts with male characters.
- Use texts that are more apt to engage boys emotionally with characters that deal with issues boys care about, and that honor their identity.
- Expose boys to nonfiction that involves learning something new.
- Use texts that legitimize the male experience and support boys’ views of themselves.
For additional information on boys and reading, check out Rhonda Lauer’s earlier post on this blog: Reading for Life: Boys and Books. I agree with Rhonda Lauer’s statement that given the proper guidance, parental support, opportunities to read books of interest, and excellent literacy instruction boys can become successful and engaged readers. We, as caring and concerned educators and parents, must address this literacy crisis and promote reading success for boys.