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Boys DO Like To Read

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Should boys be allowed to read material that's more "dude-like," to keep them interested?

boy reading book

momlogic's Vivian: Last Sunday, a New York Times op-ed columnist, Nicholas Kristof, wrote about some recent research findings: The academic chasm between boys and girls is rapidly widening in our country.

As we reported recently, a new report from the Center on Education Policy revealed that boys have fallen behind in reading in every single state. Among its findings: Seventy-nine percent of elementary-school girls could read at a level deemed "proficient," compared with 72 percent of boys. Similar gaps were found in middle school and high school. In every state, in each of the three school levels, girls did better on average than boys.

Kristof's article then goes on to explore a variety of theories with respect to the boy lag, but one potential remedy in particular stuck out: "to encourage lowbrow, adventure or even gross-out books that disproportionately appeal to boys." He says, "If [making the best use of human capital by encouraging boys to read] means nurturing [them] with explosions, that's a price worth paying."

As the concerned mom of a young male reader, I'm on board with this theory. My kid is a voracious reader at home, and his dad and I spend a small fortune at bookstores in order to feed him enough material to cater to his interests -- be they Pokémon or how to mummify odd objects.

But at school, he could care less about sitting still long enough to read when there are friends to hang with and blocks to build with. And he'll often shuttle the same small selection of "recommended" reading material back and forth between home and school for months, because there aren't enough books that are deemed emotionally appropriate that aren't also too easy for him to read.

Frustrating? YES. It's not like his teacher is going to ask for his five-finger recall about a Pokémon guide -- no matter what level it's at. Should schools consider this and venture just a step beyond the traditionally pimped materials to be more inclusive of young boys' interests?

Mothers of sons, what say you? Do you feel your school provides your young male reader with material that keeps him engaged and interested in reading? Or is getting your son interested in school reading tough? Share your thoughts below!



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11 comments so far | Post a comment now
michelle April 1, 2010, 9:36 AM

I love Nick Kristof, but he missed the chance to highlight the real problems with public education. Why are boys falling further behind? If it’s because the books “aren’t interesting enough,” that doesn’t explain why the problem is on the *increase*. I think the real problem is that in the age of budget cuts, larger class sizes and teaching to the test, teachers have to focus more and more on maintaining order in large classrooms and force-feeding material, both of which do not encourage actual learning for either gender and particularly do not work well for boys. But the real story is that girls do not come out of this system well educated either. They only do better than boys in this terrible system because they are taught from birth to behave “nicely” and sit “quietly.” So, in short, I think people only focus on this whole books issue because it’s easier than really fixing public education. I read plenty of adventure and other “boy” books in school, and so did everyone else I know, so that is not the problem.

Wendi April 1, 2010, 12:11 PM

I have a 13yr old son and I agree that they do not provide a good selection of books. My son has never liked reading, but is starting to only because we have been really working on getting more books that really peak his interest. This has taken a long time, but now he will sit and read at home just because he wants to. I really think teachers should be more open minded about what they can read. I know that there is a lot of books that have been a part of schooling for ever, but my son hates them. They bore him and in turn it is nothing but fighting for him to read. He will then fall asleep during the reading of those books, so is he really getting the point of the book? I think not! When they are to read to do a report, why not let them read what they like? Chances are they will enjoy it and in return they will turn in better work and get better grades. Sounds like a win win to me.

Bookworm Mom May 22, 2010, 8:45 AM

Our school library has tons of varied level books that my son has been into. In kindergarten it was Thomas the Tank and Captain Underpants. Diary of a Wimpy Kid dominated first grade with him. Oh, and When he used to get so bored with the easy readers, we took him to the comic book store. He got spiderman and his sis got spiderman loves mary jane. (There are stories in comic books.) For older boys, I have seen in the library, spiderwick chronicles and harry potter. Oh yeah, the bookfair had Indiana Jones and Cars.

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