So, all things equal for boys and girls, right? Weeeellll…..not exactly. Boys and girls deserve equal opportunites…but that does not mean that we, as educators and/or parents, should ignore their differences. Sure, it's OK for young boys to play with dolls and for young girls to play with trucks; but when it comes to boys and literacy, research shows that there is a significant gap in reading achievement. Boys and girls have biological differences and we can’t expect boys to fit into our mold of what we think a “reader” should be; we instead have to be flexible and bend our expectations to meet the needs of the young boys in our lives. Boys might not sit still for a 15 minute circle time so we have to find another way to reach them.
Research shows that literacy skills are a predictive factor in school success. Creating a nation of boys that are lagging behind in reading skills means that they are at risk in other subject areas as well. Our effort to erase this literacy achievement gap has to begin in the early years. Here are just some of the things that parents and teachers can do to set a literacy foundation early in a young boy’s life:
- Start early: I remember reading that adults tend to read and talk more to girls than they do to boys – even in infancy. We can’t set our boys up for failure even before they get a chance to crawl! It’s important for all babies to be read to; research shows that the single most important thing a parent can do to raise a child who reads, is to read to them early and often!
- Choose books that will be of interest: Whatever those interests are, foster them. Is your two year old obsessed with trucks? Have a five year old that can’t get enough of dinosaurs? Or a ten year old who loves all things related to baseball? There are books on just about every topic under the sun! Visit the library often and get acquainted with your local librarian!
- Value Read Aloud Time: Even after a child learns to read, continue to read aloud. Hearing the rhythm, patterns, tone, and pronunciation of written language helps children to become better readers.
- Timing is Important: If boys seem to have a short attention span, choose books that are not too long. Or, read books in chunks – a few pages a day/night. What’s important is that you are reading!
- SET AN EXAMPLE: Boys need good role models. Dads, granddads, uncles, or other male figures should model literacy behavior. Children see and children do!
- Keep tabs on digital media: Boys are attracted to video games and computers. It’s unrealistic to eliminate all digital media from a child’s life; to do so would suggest that computers and video games are inherently “bad.” I suggest that the use of video games and computer time is monitored – supervise the time children spend using these devices, select games/software properly, and select well-developed websites to explore.
- Teacher Tip Tuesday: Boys and Books in the Classroom
- Beyond Reading: 15 Literacy Activities for Parents with Boys
- Literacy Challenges for “at-risk” families (coming soon)
- Should We Give In to the “Yuck Factor” When It Comes to Boys and Books?
- 25 Books Boys (and girls) Might Enjoy (coming soon)