kitchen table math, the sequel: speaking of boys

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

speaking of boys

Nine-year-old girls score 7 points higher than boys of the same age in reading, according to long-term trend data for NAEP. For 13-year-olds, the gender gap is 8 points. For 17-year-olds, the gender gap is even wider, 11 points, and has remained about the same since 1971, when the test was first given. In 1971, 17-year-old girls scored 12 points higher than boys that age in reading on NAEP.

University officials attest to those deficiencies sticking to many young men as they age. “Overall, our female students coming in [to the university] are better readers [than male students]," Tracy Fitzsimmons, the president of the university, told conference attendees. “They are better writers.”

Authors Share Tips on Getting Boys to Read
By Mary Ann Zehr
Education Week | July 2, 2009

Judith Kleinfeld says there isn't a literacy gap in home-schooled children.


Nikita said...

I don't have statistics to support my observations, but after years of homeschooling in a large city, it seems to me that most of the homeschooled boys learned to read a bit later than most of the girls, and that many more of the boys had "pencil allergies" than did the girls. So yes, there is a literacy gap among homeschoolers, but it's in the primary years and has disappeared by the high school years. I have never met a homeschooled kid who didn't become a voracious reader by their teen years.

Homeschooling parents in our community largely responded to these differences by being willing to wait an extra year or two to teach the boys to read (eg, I taught my son starting at 7 and my daughter starting at 4) - in public school, my son would have been left behind if he hadn't learned how to read at 5 or 6 with the others, as they simply stop teaching kids how to read by grade 2. I watched it happen with a neighbour's child who simply didn't learn on the school's schedule, and then wasn't taught any more. The mother paid for Kumon for a year and the child is now reading above grade level.

Homeschoolers also typically allow all their children a lot of flexibility in choosing their reading material, but with a heavy guiding hand. My kids have read a lot of classics, and now that they are in school, I am mourning how little exposure to literature they are getting.

As far as writing goes, most homeschooling parents I know dealt with their sons' pencil allergies with a lot of anguish and hair-pulling. I managed to teach my own son a good deal of grammar and how to analyze sentences and how to read for content. I never did manage to teach him how to write a decent topic sentence or a five-paragraph essay that didn't make me shake my head in despair. However, he is coping in high school and is motivated to do well for a demanding teacher now. In my experience, most other homeschooling parents of boys didn't struggle as much as I did with mine, however.

My daughter is now in grade 6 at our local public school, and I can honestly say that my son would have gagged on the writing assignments she is doing - creative, response-oriented, emotion-driven writing, served with a heavy side order of arts and crafts. As bad as it was trying to overcome his writing reluctance at home, it was still better than putting him through that kind of writing environment. In high school, he is being taught skills and being expected to use his writing to communicate ideas based on logic not emotion.

I can't see how the teaching that's happening in my daughter's grade 6 class is even remotely related to the academic writing that is expected in grade 9, and I foresee a lot of afterschooling in my future to teach her the skills she won't get at school.

Ari said...

I learned how to read when I was 3 and I read and read. But I read the old Worldbook encyclopedia we kept in the house, not novels. So I understand the boy who said "Why would anyone want to read novels? They aren't even true!"
But does he really feel that way? I am sure he would read a a book that deals with sci-fi or action. It's just that you won't find too many sci-fi novels in the classical *or* the multicultural literature curriculum.

Anonymous said...

All of my kids - both sexes - enjoyed Jack London, Mark Twain, Rosemary Sutcliff historicals, animal stories, Swiss Family Robinson, Robinson Crusoe etc. and good non-fiction, but those weren't often on the school menu and it became worse over time. Even my daughter HATED the touchy-feely stuff the teachers assigned, which also tended to portray boys as wimps, idiots etc. in need of saving by heroic girls.

All of my kids learned to read with phonics, prior to kindergarten. I feel strongly that most kids do better with explicit phonics, especially boys and lower SES kids. Whole language, aka balanced literacy, seems to be predicated on the assumption (hope)that reading will miraculously happen when the kid is developmentally ready and "everyone" knows that boys are ready later than girls. I don't buy it.

le radical galoisien said...

Does it have anything to do with the fact that girls experience puberty earlier than boys?