Boys Fall Behind in Reading Skills
- The higher the educational level, the bigger the decline in their ability to read ordinary prose, one of the three kinds of literacy assessed by NCES.
- Even more astonishing, the decline in literacy skills among college graduates and those with graduate study or degrees rated “proficient” was confined to males.
- The percentage of highly educated males rated “proficient” in all three kinds of literacy assessed (prose reading, document reading, and quantitative reasoning, as defined by NCES) declined.
- The percentage of highly educated females rated “proficient” in the first two kinds of literacy remained the same, and in the third kind, increased somewhat.
- Results on the 2005 grade 12 test of reading achievement, released in February 2007, showed over one grade level difference between girls and boys.
- Both male and female students’ scores were lower in 2005 in comparison to 1992, when these main tests began, with female students now outscoring male students by 13 points.
What Boys and Girls are Reading
- These fantasies do not tend to have the socially or politically profound themes one finds in Fahrenheit 451, Animal Farm, or Lord of the Flies, which are considered mature novels of imagined worlds.
- Their main characters are all unusual teen-agers who use magic and mischief to solve their problems.
- Most of the books in these series do not have high readability levels, according to the formula used by Accelerated Reader, although they are generally well-written. Most of the books by Christopher Paolini, Stephenie Meyer, Orson Card, Lemony Snicket, Scott Westerfeld, Eion Colfer, and J.K. Rowling have fifth to seventh grade readability levels. Some (e.g., the Harry Potter books) are long, but most are much shorter.
- The overall readability level of the top 20 books for grade 8 is 6.2 . For grades 9-12, it is 6.1.
The Social Justice Influence in the English Curriculum
Top 20 Titles in 2007 for Boys and Girls in Grades 9-12 in the Accelerated Reader Database*
|1. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (5.6)||
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (5.6)
|2 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K.Rowling (6.9)||
A Child Called "It", Dave Pelzer (5.8)
|3 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, J.K.Rowling (5.5)||Twilight, Stephenie Meyer (4.9)|
|4 Holes, Louis Sachar (4.6)||Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck (4.5)|
|5 Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck (4.5)||Night, Elie Wiesel (4.8)|
|6 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J.K. Rowling (6.7)||The Notebook, Nicholas Sparks (5.5)|
|7 The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton (4.7)||Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K.Rowling (6.9)|
|8 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K.Rowling (6.8)||Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson (4.5)|
|9 Night, Elie Wiesel (4.8)||
The Crucible, Arthur Miller (4.9)
|10 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K. Rowling (7.2)||
New Moon: A Novel, Stephenie Meyer (4.7)
|11 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling (7.2)||The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald (7.3)|
|12 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,J.K. Rowling (6.7)||Holes, Louis Sachar (4.6)|
|13 Eragon, Christopher Paolini (5.6)||Lord of the Flies, William Golding (5.0)|
|14 Lord of the Flies, William Golding (5.0)||A Walk to Remember, Nicholas Sparks (5.8)|
|15 The Crucible, Arthur Miller (4.9)||Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, J.K. Rowling (5.5)|
|16 Animal Farm, George Orwell (7.3)||Animal Farm , George Orwell (7.3)|
|17 The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald (7.3)||Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J.K. Rowling (6.7)|
|18 Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare (8.6)||The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton (4.7)|
|19 A Child Called "It", Dave Pelzer (5.8)||The Scarlet Letter (Unabridged), Nathaniel Hawthorne (11.7)|
|20 Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury (5.2)||Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare (8.6)|
** A book's readability level is in parentheses. The average readability level of the top 20 books read by ninth- through twelfth-grade students was 6.1 overall, 6.4 for boys, and 5.7 for girls.
By reading popular fantasies, boys escape pedagogical injunctions to relate what they read to their personal lives and to engage in political activism to combat their society’s ills. And, best of all, they find the adventurous, courageous, and clever male characters that are likely not in their middle or high schoolEnglish curriculum. The problem is, so far as we can tell from the novels listed in the top 20 on these lists, that their tastes and reading skills have not been developed for mature fiction, biographies, and historical nonfiction in self-selected reading.
Tips for Parents and Teachers
- It has long been known that there are strong differences between boys and girls in their literary preferences. Consider assigning books that appeal to boys that convey interesting facts, high adventure and practical information
- Interesting Facts – boys enjoy reading about the natural world they live in. Encylopedias, Ripley's Believe It or Not, and. the Guinness Book of World Records are popular with boys of all ages.
- High Adventure –boys like a fast-moving story with a plot that captures their imagination and shows leading male characters with courage and daring.
- Practical Information– follow the student’s interest. If he is interested in mountain bikes, by all means, allow him to read about the latest crop of professional mountain bikers.
- Involve boys in the selection process to increase their interest and attentiveness to reading http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Helping/.
- Boys want to see males as leading characters and as models for the kind of people they want to be. Consider biographies of important American presidents, inventors, scientists, military leaders throughout history, high-achieving athletes, and unusual, bold entrepreneurs. Years ago, the Landmark Series of biographies turned many children, especially boys, into readers years ago, and many are now in print again.