Monday, February 14, 2005

Boys and Reading

Some of the gender differences noticed by fMRI raise some possibilities about why boys might read differently from girls. Language does tend to be more one-sided in men compared to women (see figure below), accounting for why boys may be more vulnerable to language difficulties following birth trauma.
But even gender-related differences in emotional memory (yesterday's post) could explain some of the differences in reading preferences that educators have noticed throughout K-12 education.

A quick survey of the bookshelves of almost any elementary school classrooms reveals a heavy preference for fiction and 'school' stories, although boys prefer non-fiction, fantasy, humor, and science fiction. Could the preferences that boys and girls have be due to the gender differences in emotional memory? Would girls be as interested in situationally-based fiction if they didn't have as powerful emotional memories as they do? How about boys? Would boys be as uninterested in fiction if they had more powerful emotional memories? Something to think about...

If you have a reluctant boy reader, stock up on non-fiction titles, adventure stories, technology, and fantasy. Favorite reads can be a vital way to encourage a reluctant reader. Often if there is quite a bit of technical language to learn at first, this special interest can give a child a foothold in further language learning.

Helping Boys to Read Well and Often. ERIC Digest.
Boys and Books
Helping Boys Become Better Readers, Better Students, Better Guys
Gender Differences in Learning and Emotional Memory
Men Do Hear -- But Differently Than Women

6 comments:

  1. Fascinating! I really find that "fantasy" and "adventure" bias has more to do with there being more boy-oriented fantasy and adventure titles than boy-oriented "real life" stories than fantasy/adventure being innately more appealing than any other fictional genre. (I mean, come ON, boys would love a good medieval historical book written just for their tastes! Knights and swords and horses--perfect material. And what ever happened to the dime novel cowboys, anyhow?)

    I think the biggest problem that keeps boys from being readers might be that teachers stock what they liked at that age and parents pick out their own favorite books for their kids--and most teachers are women and the parents who most often shop for kids are their mothers. When the boys don't like what they loved, they wrongly think that the boys just don't like to read, and then they stop trying.

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  2. We totally agree with you re: who's selecting their books. There's a great need for more robotics and non fiction books in early elementary school classrooms. It would help a lot. Also boys seem to love the 'extreme case' genre like Guiness World Book or Ripley's. Optical illusions are up there too.

    Boys do love good medieval historical books ala Red Wall, but we still suspect that there is more interest on the girls' part (this is a generality of course) on interpersonal relationships, emotional feelings, and conflicts. Boys seem to like action and 'completely different world' scenarios. Myers Briggs gender differences in F's (feeling) and T's (thinking) also seems to bear this out.

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  3. I grew up as a reluctant reader. Now I write for other boys who don't like to read and thought you might be interested in my adventure books.

    Thank you,

    Max Elliot Anderson

    http://maxbooks.9k.com

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  4. That's neat, Max. Sounds like you had an interesting life story. We'll email you off your website. We're planning to add web pages of interviews with writers, scientists, engineers, etc. about what some of their experiences were like when they were kids and what influenced them to go into their current line of work or interest.

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  5. Thank you for this fascinating post. As an educator this study on gender based reading differences deserves great consideration. I'm participating in a book study of "How the Brain Learns to Read" (Sousa, 2005) that supports what you wrote. In the book, Sousa confirms that "Male brains tend to process language in the left hemisphere, while most female brains process language in both hemispheres." (pp. 14, 15) He goes on to mention that in females the nerve bundle connecting both hemispheres, the corpus callosum, is larger and thicker in females and he implies that information travels between the two hemispheres more efficiently in females and may account for why young girls often acquire spoken language more readily than boys.



    Sousa, D. A., (2005). How the Brain Learns to Read. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you for this fascinating post. As an educator this study on gender based reading differences deserves great consideration. I'm participating in a book study of "How the Brain Learns to Read" (Sousa, 2005) that supports what you wrote. In the book, Sousa confirms that "Male brains tend to process language in the left hemisphere, while most female brains process language in both hemispheres." (pp. 14, 15) He goes on to mention that in females the nerve bundle connecting both hemispheres, the corpus callosum, is larger and thicker in females and he implies that information travels between the two hemispheres more efficiently in females and may account for why young girls often acquire spoken language more readily than boys.



    Sousa, D. A., (2005). How the Brain Learns to Read. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press

    ReplyDelete