How can we close the gender gap in reading?

As a former school psychologist, I always wondered why girls outpaced boys in reading. It’s a global phenomenon that exists today, and not just in the U.S. — in 65 countries, girls have significantly higher reading scores than boys.

I wondered if the language arts experiences in the schools merged better with femininity than with masculinity. I theorized that boys may view reading and writing in school as uncool, something at odds with the manly action and adventure they crave. If this were true, we could toss out “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens and Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”, and stock the bookshelves with Field & Stream and Sports Illustrated (not the swimsuit edition) magazines, and with books like “Hulk Hogan Goes at It with Mike Tyson” …and the boy’s reading levels should soar, right?

I don’t think so, because since I retired from education seventeen years ago, girls have developed a graving for action and adventure just like boys, and their reading levels continue to remain much higher. Many parents continue to wonder why their sons don’t do as well in reading and writing as their daughters. Please, don’t explain it away with the “boys will be boys” rationale.

Maybe unplugging boys (and girls) from computer games and watching TV for just a half hour each night, and scheduling “reading time” would help lessen the reading gap. Note the computer games they play and the TV programs they watch to learn what’s fun and amusing to them. Then, get your sons (and daughters) a library card and have them meet the librarian. Librarians can do wonders in helping boys select books that match their interests and reading levels.

Better yet, have dad do a father/son library visitation. They can stroll through the library shelves together, sharing their interests and looking at the action-packed books on adventure, camping, fishing, hunting and sports.

Just some thoughts. In reality, I have no idea how to develop a built-in appreciation for reading in boys. Years ago, I tried to find out how by asking a third-grade boy why he suddenly got turned on to books. He replied, “Cause’, Mr. Morton, books don’t have any commercials.” Well, there you have it.

Robert Morton has retired from his positions of school psychologist and adjunct professor in the School of Leadership and Policy Studies at Bowling Green State University. He authored two spy thriller novels: “PENUMBRA DATABASE” and “MISSION OF VENGEANCE”- both can be found in Kindle or paperback at books.



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