Parents of boys should ask themselves this question as they enter the doors of their schools. A myriad of incidents suggests that the answer is yes. By the time they reach school, many boys are already lagging behind in literacy: at age five, there is a gap of 11 percentage points between boys’ and girls’ achievement in reading. More and more boys struggle with reading and literacy as they progress through the school system. Boys are also less likely to. enjoy reading and less likely to spend time reading outside of class. This literacy behaviors are becoming more severe because boys are not only underachieving in literacy, the gap between how much boys and girls enjoy reading or choose to spend time reading is widening.
So what is making boys more likely to struggle with reading? Not all boys struggle with reading and while the literacy gender gap is seen internationally, there are notable exceptions including Chile and the Netherlands. Something we are doing as a society is making boys more likely to fail at reading.. In school, what is taught and how it is taught and assessed all impacts on boys’ achievement, while boys’ gender identities, influenced by society’s expectations and reinforced by their peers, can negatively impact their attitudes toward reading, the amount of time they spend reading and ultimately their reading skills.
Many secondary school boys do not have the stamina to read beyond the 100th page of a book. Does his mean we need to toss out longer novels in favor of shorter books? Since for many boys the cutoff point happens within the first few pages of a book, providing shorter books does not solve the problem . More needs to be done to engage boys’ and build on their own interests.
|Texas Child Suspended After Hugging Aide
WACO, Texas — School administrators gave a 4-year-old student an in-school suspension for inappropriately touching a teacher’s aide after the pre-kindergartner hugged the woman. A letter from La Vega school district administrators to the student’s parents said that the boy was involved in “inappropriate physical behavior interpreted as sexual contact and/or sexual harassment” after he hugged the woman and he “rubbed his face in the chest of the female employee” on Nov. 10. DaMarcus Blackwell, the father of the boy who attends La Vega Primary School, said he filed a complaint with the district. He said that his son doesn’t understand why he was punished. “When I got that letter, my world flipped,” Blackwell said in a story in Sunday’s editions of the Waco Tribune-Herald. La Vega school district officials said student privacy laws
prevented them from commenting. After Blackwell filed a complaint, a subsequent letter from the district said the offense had been changed to “inappropriate physical contact” and removed references of sexual contact or sexual harassment from the boy’s file. Administrators said the district’s student handbook contains no specific guidelines referring to contact between teachers and students but does state that inappropriate physical contact will result in a discipline referral (Waco Tribune-Herald, 2005).
|Child suspended from his Virginia school for picking up a pencil and using it to “shoot” a “bad guy” — his friend, who was also suspended. A few months earlier, Josh Welch, also 7, was sent home from his Maryland school for nibbling off the corners of a strawberry Pop-Tart to shape it into a gun. At about the same time, Colorado’s Alex Evans, age 7, was suspended for throwing an imaginary hand grenade at “bad guys” in order to “save the world (Time, 2013).”|
Forgotten is the reality that millions of boys are struggling academically. A large and ever-increasing male horde is falling behind in grades and disengaged from school. College has never been more important to a young person’s life prospects, and today boys are far less likely than girls to pursue education beyond high school..
Across the country, schools are policing and punishing the distinctive, assertive sociability of boys.. The obsession of upholding zero tolerance policies is creating hostile environments for young boys. Many much-loved games have vanished from school playgrounds. At some schools, tug of war has been replaced with “tug of peace.” Since the 1990s, elimination games like dodgeball, red rover and tag have been under a cloud — too damaging to self-esteem and too violent, say certain experts. Young boys, with few exceptions, love action narratives. These usually involve heroes, bad guys, rescues and shoot-ups. As boys’ play proceeds, plots become more elaborate and the boys more transfixed. When researchers ask boys why they do it, the standard reply is, “Because it’s fun.”
According to at least one study, such play rarely escalates into real aggression — only about 1% of the time. But when two researchers, Mary Ellin Logue and Hattie Harvey, surveyed classroom practices of 98 teachers of 4-year-olds, they found that this style of play was the least tolerated. Nearly half of teachers stopped or redirected boys’ dramatic play daily or several times a week — whereas less than a third reported stopping or redirecting girls’ dramatic play weekly.
Play is a critical basis for learning. And boys’ heroic play is no exception. Logue and Harvey found that “bad guy” play improved children’s conversation and imaginative writing. Such play, say the authors, also builds moral imagination, social competence and imparts critical lessons about personal limits and self-restraint. Logue and Harvey worry that the growing intolerance for boys’ action-narrative-play choices may be undermining their early language development and weakening their attachment to schoolSchools must enforce codes of discipline and maintain clear rules against incivility and malicious behavior. But that hardly requires abolishing tag, imposing games of tug of peace or banning superhero play. Efforts to re-engineer the young-male imagination are doomed to fail, but they will succeed spectacularly in at least one way. They will send a clear and unmistakable message to millions of schoolboys: You are not welcome in school.