Teaching Boys To Read

Friday’s Wall Street Journal posted an article on the disparity between the reading proficiency level of boys and girls. 

The article points out:

“This disparity goes back to 1992, and in some states the percentage of boys proficient in reading is now more than ten points below that of girls. The male-female reading gap is found in every socio-economic and ethnic category, including the children of white, college-educated parents.”

The article also notes that there is no literacy gap between home-schooled boys and girls.  So what is going on?

The article points out:

“The appearance of the boy-girl literacy gap happens to coincide with the proliferation of video games and other electronic forms of entertainment over the last decade or two. Boys spend far more time “plugged in” than girls do. Could the reading gap have more to do with competition for boys’ attention than with their supposed inability to focus on anything other than outhouse humor?

“Dr. Robert Weis, a psychology professor at Denison University, confirmed this suspicion in a randomized controlled trial of the effect of video games on academic ability. Boys with video games at home, he found, spend more time playing them than reading, and their academic performance suffers substantially. Hard to believe, isn’t it, but Science has spoken.”

The article concludes that the way to increase boys’ reading ability is to decrease their time on video games.  That actually makes perfect sense.

The article also explores the trend in some educational circles to capture the attention of boys by reading ‘grossout’ books.  There are a few problems with this.  Eventually, we expect these boys to grow up and become gentlemen.  If we cater to their ‘grossout’ taste in the interest of teaching them to read, it may not be reasonable to expect them to become gentlemen in the future.  The cultural foundation of a child is laid during the first six to ten years.  Culturally, what are we teaching them?  Our elementary schools are laying the groundwork for what the next generation will be culturally and intellectually.  Do we want ‘grossout’ books to be part of the foundation of that generation?  We need to be concerned about the coarsening of the culture.  Having little boys reading ‘grossout’ books will not help improve the culture.