The Gender Reading Gap: Why Boys Underperform In Reading & What Can You Do About It

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The gender reading gap is real. Studies show that girls outperform boys in reading and literacy skills in almost all countries and it’s far more likely for boys to leave school unable to read. If you have boys, it’s important that you give them extra support. Having poor reading skills will negatively impact their life in so many different ways, so it’s crucial that this problem is addressed from a young age. 

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The key to tackling the gender reading gap is understanding why it happens in the first place. These are some of the potential reasons why boys underperform in reading, and what you can do about it. 

Lack Of Vocal Play 

Often the way that boys play at a young age is different from girls. While both are very explorative and will run around climbing on things and playing with toys, girls tend to be more vocal and chatty during play, while boys are more likely to be engrossed in whatever activity they are doing, without worrying about talking to people around them. This is a generalization, of course, and does not apply in all cases, but it’s still important to consider the impact. Research shows that good spoken language skills have an impact on reading ability, so this lack of vocal play means that boys are often on the back foot from a young age. 

In order to combat this, you need to focus on fun activities that develop spoken language skills. Word games are great for this, but you should also try things like jokes and tongue twisters. 

Struggling To Find The Right Books 

In some cases, boys don’t engage with reading because they don’t enjoy the books that they’re reading at school. If you want boys to be excited about reading, you need to find something that they are interested in. It’s a good idea to use digital libraries like Reading IQ from Age of Learning because there is just so much choice. Start with book adaptations of their favorite films and TV characters as a gateway, and help them find books that they enjoy. Often, boys think of books as being too childish for them, but if you can find them something a bit more grown up, but still suitable for their age, they will be much more engaged.  

Peer Pressure

Peer pressure has a big role to play because reading is not seen as cool, especially by young boys. This is an issue for girls to some extent but it plays out a lot more in boys. Even if they enjoy reading, they don’t want to be seen as an avid reader by their peers because they worry that it affects their social standing. Unfortunately, this is a difficult problem to tackle and it only gets worse as they get older. The best thing to do is focus on improving their literacy from a young age because, if they already have a love of reading, they are less likely to succumb to peer pressure. 

The gender gap in reading is a big issue and if you are a parent to boys, it’s crucial that you take steps to tackle it. 

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