What's Up with Boys and Reading?
April 03, 2013
The National Center for Educational Statistics shows alarming trends:
- Boys are 30% more likely than girls to flunk or drop out of school.
- Girls outperform boys in elementary and secondary school, college, and even graduate school.
- Boys are 4-5 times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
- Women outnumber men in colleges and account for roughly 60% of associate, bachelor, and master degrees and have begun to outpace men in obtaining Ph.Ds.
Leonard Sax, the author of Boys Adrift, (Sax, 2007) identifies the following factors that have driven boys away from books:
- Changes in education/kindergarten (from a focus on socialization 30 years ago, to the present push to read and write earlier)
- Video games (research shows boys are distracted from real world pursuits)
- Medications for ADHD (may be causing damage to motivational centers of boys’ brains)
- Endocrine disruptors (environmental estrogens from plastics, etc.)
- Devaluation of masculinity (40 years ago we had “Father Knows Best.” Today we have “The Simpsons.”
How do we convince Johnny to read? What can we do?
Parents and teachers should play a key role in actively helping boys connect with books and read in a meaningful way. Educators can help by giving boys time to socialize and mature before pushing them to read, and by giving them extra opportunities for movement in the classroom. We can all help by being role models and demonstrating that reading is an activity of value. It would also help if men’s organizations made literacy one of their primary aims and publicly supported literacy and lifelong learning. "A boy will follow the lead of his male role model, usually his father or other significant man in his life. If that man values reading, the boy will too." (McFann, J., Reading Today, August, 2004.)
For more information on this topic, I recommend the following books and websites:
Boys Adrift:The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men by Leonard Sax
Why Gender Matters by Leonard Sax
Helping Boys Succeed in School by Terry W. Neu
Reading Don’t Fix No Chevys by Michael Smith
The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminists are Harming Our Young Men by Christine Sommers
Raising Elijah: Protecting Our Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis by Sandra Steingraber
North Independence Branch