You might not be surprised that boys don't read as much as girls. You might even think that's just the way boys are.
Research consistently shows they have lower reading skills and a worse attitude about books. The most recent studies come from the United Kingdom.
At age seven, there's already a gender gap of 7 percent fewer boys than girls reading at the expected level. By age 11, it's 8 percent; by age 13, the gap has increased to 12, and in high school it reaches 14.
And that's for the boys who have not dropped out of school. Last year the United States dropout rate reached its highest level in nearly 40-years and more boys quit than girls in every state in the nation.
But it's wrong to think poor reading is inherent in boys, and there's much we can do to help boys read more and better.
For one, we can help boys discover that reading is fun. They may not gravitate to novels like girls, but there's a lot of new and exciting reading material to interest boys of all ages. See lists by topic here. Librarians are excellent at knowing what books appeal to boys, and they're up-to-date on reading options for boys. That's their job.
I should say, used to be their job. The pandemic loss of school librarians due to budget cuts in the last five years means boys have very little help in finding something they might enjoy reading. I was incredibly demoralized when we lost the battle for librarians in my kids' school district. I cannot imagine attending a school without a librarian. It's like a car without headlights. And no spark plugs.
Sheila May-Stein writes a lovely story on her blog about how to approach a boy about a book. Click here for Random Thoughts of an Outlaw Educator.
A fifth grade teacher in Forth Worth, Texas, Donalyn Miller, motivates her middle school students to read 40 or more books a year.
"I'm invited to speak in schools that want to improve their test scores, but the kids don't have books to read and parent volunteers run the library. They don't get it....
"...The manner in which schools institutionalize reading takes this love away from children. As instruction becomes limited to test-taking drill and kill, we are slowly strangling the joy of reading out of students, and without quality instruction in how to read well, we are narrowing their possibilities as readers forever," Donalyn says.
Anthony Horowitz writes books that many boys devour. His series ALEX RIDER about a teenage spy has sold 12 million copies worldwide. Anthony says, "I can tell you if a school has a good library five minutes after entering it... It is in the eyes of the kids."
We didn't have a school librarian in my elementary school, but the public library was housed in our school building, and classes made regular trips down the hall to use it. Mrs. Orr, the librarian was one of the strongest pillars in my childhood. I wish every child had someone like her just down the hall.
Was there an important librarian in your life?
What can we do to help kids, especially boys, find something to read that will help instill a lifetime habit?
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