Skip to comments.When Boys Donít Read, Hereís What To Do
Posted on 04/07/2010 11:57:23 AM PDT by BruceDeitrickPrice
I like it when the New York Times agrees with me. Nicholas Kristofs recent column Boys have fallen behind (April 4) is an exact echo of my column on CanadaFreePress several weeks earlier (March 15).
My piece was titled Our Schools Are Skilled At Making Sure Boys Dont Read." Its longer, more aggressive, with more suggestions on how to deal with this very huge problem, namely, that boys dont read well or they dont read at all.
If boys not reading is an aspect of your life, please see this article. [Link at end.]
Now I want to mention the big difference between my article and the one in the Times. Kristof earnestly discusses several theories about why boys cant seem to keep up with girls. Its very helpful to discuss these theories, and as much as I like mocking the New York Times, Kristof deserves credit for that.
But Kristof doesnt mention the essential problem, which is that reading methods used in public schools are often ineffective and destructive. Specifically, the Education Establishment still pushes sight-words and Dolch words. All the phonics people say that the very process of memorizing these words will prevent the child from becoming a good reader. So you see the crime is being committed in plain sight.
Lets say a boy is 10 or 12 years old and he doesnt like to read. You dont actually know whether he is avoiding books as a matter of preference, or he is unable to use books as a matter of never having been properly taught. This is a HUGE distinction...
[SHORT ARTICLE CONCLUDES BELOW]
(Excerpt) Read more at edarticle.com ...
I can sum up this issue by saying the big reason boys can't read is not being taught properly, and then the bad results are glossed over. It happens, you know, that children can be in the fourth grade, unable to read, but taking home A's on their report card. For me, that's criminally irresponsible, and what we need to correct ASAP.
“You dont actually know whether he is avoiding books as a matter of preference, or he is unable to use books as a matter of never having been properly taught. This is a HUGE distinction”
That is a great point. I know lots of people who say they don’t like to read, but I don’t a know a single person who can read (and comprehend) quickly, who doesn’t like to read. The bulk of people who say they don’t enjoy reading simply do not have the skills to enjoy it.
If you want boys to like books, then use some boy books to teach them with, books about cowboys and indians and wars and heroes, books about building the nation’s trains and the use of riverboats, and the harvesting of fur and gold.
For some reason I am unable to access the article. The link will not deliver you to it. Do you have another one?
Never mind. Now I can see it. Weird.
Boys who don’t read have parents who don’t encourage reading.
Boys can’t read because they’re told by their teachers that girls are in control so “Sit down and shut the “f” up”. This prepares boys for the workplace where they’re quickly castrated and de-tongued as evil beings. Boys are slaves to their female slave masters who are owned by the Government who threatens to deny their children health care unless they do what they’re told. It’s a neat feudal lord kind of arrangement, whereby the Government ensures the threat of male resistance is neutralized.
“All the phonics people say that the very process of memorizing these words will prevent the child from becoming a good reader.”
a) Citing the opinion of a group that actively dislikes “sight-word” reading, and pushes a method that makes money for some of these people, as being scientifically valid is irresponsible.
b) Making an absolute statement like that (re the phrase “will prevent”) is a good way to utterly discredit any point you were trying to make, because if your premise is founded on that absolute, then *anything*, even a single example, that refutes the absolute statement then refutes the premise . Case in point: Me. I learned by sight-word reading, learned very early, and wildly outstripped my peers, many of whom were taught using phonics, in reading ability i.e. reading at a 5th-grade or so level in Kindergarten, and well beyond high-school level by 6th grade.
Now, if the article had pointed to a study by a neutral group that showed that sight-word reading methodology resulted in higher rates of illiteracy than phonics, it might be a different matter, but that’s not the case here.
Ping for later reading
And, before anyone claims that I might not remember things correctly, my mother was a teacher, and therefore knew exactly what kinds of methods were used for teaching reading, and has told me straight out that I learned using the sight-reading method, not phonics.
And yes, I am male.
“If you want boys to like books, then use some boy books to teach them with, books about cowboys and indians and wars and heroes, books about building the nations trains and the use of riverboats, and the harvesting of fur and gold.”
Thank you for stating this - our 6th grade son says he hates to read... but he has exceptions like the Bone series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Geronimo Stilton, and some others (mostly comic book type) but he is not allowed to read them in school because they are comic books. So he only reads them at home. He also likes to read through his Sports Illustrated Kids. I thought it did not matter what they read as long as they were reading.
Some of the crap they give for reading and testing is absolutely horrible and very girl-centric with bizarre names that you spend half the time trying to figure out how to pronounce.
I hate to say it, but I fully agree with you.
My husband, who is a wonderful man, is not a great reader. He has three sons (previous marriage), and he has never encouraged them to read either—they are the “outdoor” types.
However, I homeschooled the youngest in 8th grade, and that required a lot of reading. We would sit down together every day, for several hours, and read the material together. Guess what... he became an avid reader—he loves it! He has a great imagination and much prefers reading over the movie version of a story any day!
Some kids (such as my daughter) are natural readers. Some kids take much more effort to develop the desire. But the desire is there, if enough effort is made to unlock it!
when did this change? all my guy friends read voraciously, none of my girlfriends do- alot of them have a hard time getting thru simple teens novels like ‘twilight.’
admittedly alot of the reading we do is stephen king and tolkien, and other sci-fi, fantasy and horror stuff, but we’ve also read rand, orwell, machivelli, tsu, verne, wilde, dickens.. and its gotta be a shock for “educated” boomers to walk into a bar and see a bunch of tattooed and pierced guys discussing classic novels.
I think subject matter is important. The types of material my 7 y.o. (boy) is interested in and those my 10 y.o. (girl) likes to read show some definite preferences.
I was a compulsive reader all my life, for a number of years I averaged about 500 books a year, I was a lousy student because no one can average a book and a half a day without doing a lot of that reading during classes.
I was stunned in school to learn that there were books that were boring and unreadable, and that the female English teachers were fascinated with them and wanted us all to read them and be graded solely on them. I love “War and Peace” and Dostoevsky, and even Barbara Tuchman, but all those Victorian females named Jane or whatever? I never managed to get through any of them, in fact I am almost dozing off now as I think about those English teachers and their “literature”.
I don’t have any research to back me up, but I have had several hundred boys during the past decade come into my classroom with a disgust for reading.
The author is absolutely correct. My reading list is filled with things like the Iliad and Odyssey, Dracula, UFO stories, Bigfoot tales... and once they get past the language, Macbeth is a favorite, especially that last page. My son is a perfect example. I started him out reading my old X-Men comics, starting with issue 171 and reading every night until we got to issue 305, then moving on to some other graphic novels, with a few print-only stories inbetween, as well as the Guiness Book of World Records, science magazines, and so forth. Now he reads his World of Warcraft comics and magazines and short stories and wants more.
In the meantime, his (female) teacher won’t let him read graphic novels because they’re “too gory.”
Favorite anecdote confirming what the author says: A freshman boy came up to me once and told me, “I’m really sick and tired of all those Amazon girl stories.”
Interestingly, the girls will read anything put in front of them, which they usually finish early, then pass notes talking smack about each other or write their names dozens of times with expansive flourishes across the paper (why, I have no idea - I’ve just seen it happen).
The subtext is clear, and it isn’t pretty. We just ignore our boys and their needs. That chicken will come home to roost someday, if it already hasn’t.
i’m a big fan of associating heard speech with written speech. don’t know if there’s any scientific basis for it, but turning on closed captioning while my girls are watching movies seems to have helped with their reading.
Sounds like your teacher had a case of Edna St. Vincent Malaise.
Eleven 4.0 last semester in my daughter’s class and only one boy, and that boy is borderline autistic (very smart, talented musician but unable to function very well socially).
Actually the girl athletes are lionized as well. You are seen as weird if you don’t participate in sports (my daughters, alas, are blessed with my genetics and have absolutely no hope in competitive sports).
I don’t know how many “bookish” boys are in my daughter’s class. She is not aware of any. At that age I was reading everything (to the detriment of my school work). My oldest has a better balance, but my youngest is just like me.
At two of our state universities they have Women in Science and Medicine conferences, and I am taking both my daughters to them, but I think they are no longer necessary (it should be open to both boys and girls). With the medical school classes being 50% women why continue the proactive steps?
Give me a break....I have 3 boys, my middle son has fantastic reading comprehension...always has but he hates to read...in fact all three of my boys go until they hit the bed.....they don’t even watch t.v. or play video games......they prefer to be outside doing physical things, when they stop moving they hit the bad with a thud.
BTW, my husband and I are book junkies....we’re always reading.
I dont think that is as true as it used to be. People with homes with thousands of books, think mine and my friends, have children who are move visual arts oriented and watch tv and film and computer.
my biggest reader is a child who is an auditory learner and who listens to books on tape. he goes through a couple a week.
I remember my teachers getting on my case for reading Edgar Rice Burroughs, but I recently picked up my old copy of Tarzan of the Apes(trying to get my daughter to read it), and I was pleased to note the vocabulary and word usage. Kids could learn alot from reading the 19th and early 20th century classics. Actually Tarzan gets a pretty high Lexile score (1270). The highest Harry Potter is a 1030.
Call of the Wild is 1170. White Fang is 970. What is the heck are these retold books - why retell a classic.
We must be soulmates. I read constantly in school, at home and inbetween. I still read substantialy. School books..blech!
My son has been diagnosed with Mild dislexia and had focusing issues we had to have to have therapy for to get his eyes to work together better.
Still even before both the diagnosis and the treatment my wife and I got him reading, it was hard, required a lot of effort on our part, and yes even hooked on phonics to get him to be able to read on par with his peers.. but what got him to actually enjoy reading?
I handed him a copy of “Dragonlance Chronicles” and watched him tear through all 3 volumes like a starving man at a banquet. He wanted to watch the DVD movie of this so badly, and I told him, nope, can’t watch the movie until you read the book... Since then, he has been a rather voracious reader.
Hand a child that knows how to read a book that actually captures their interests and imagination, and they will read if you get rid of the other distractions.
I won’t say everything he reads is great literature, but he reads actively things he is interested in. I even have to take him to the bookstore every so often so he can buy the next book in a series he likes or new book in something else.
His latest favorite has been the Percy Jackson series, hes read the entire thing through like 4 times now.
Now my main goal is to work with him on reading to learn how to do things, as compared to being shown how... believe it or not, this is a skill many people don’t have. They can read quite well, and they can follow instructions and or mimic a shown behavior quite well, but taking printed words into action in something new to them, many people aren’t naturals at.
It did me as well. I got a scholarship from my ACT (which was much higher than my GPA would indicate). That is one of the reasons I am trying to push my girls to read some of those early 20th century pulps - they will expand their vocabulary tremendously. My youngest has agreed to be homeschooled in English and Social Studies next year - boy is she in for a surprise (they only read two “novel” length books in 7th grade for the entire year - it is insane). My daughter read both of them as a 6th grader each in about a night or two.
Since the Social Studies will be Ancient Civilizations (to the collapse of Rome) and Geography, I am setting up a ready plan to support this study. So far on my list:
Odyssey (she wants to read because of Percy Jackson)
Biographies of Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar
Selected passages out of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar
Hamilton’s Mythology (maybe Bulfinch’s instead)
Shelly’s Ozymandius and other selected relevant poetry
The Bible (in particular the OT related to Israel’s interactiions with the Egyptians, Assyrians, and Babylonians)
A description of the final destruction of Jerusalem by Titus
A book on the early Christian church
Something about Constantine
no passing grades was usually met with the strap when you got home.
But along with those “incentives” - and they may still do it, I don’t know...my youngest is 40 - we read aloud in class everyday, all the way through school. If you didn’t read well you were sort of embarassed in front of your classmates.
Those sort of incentives haven’t been done in years....if it were, my job would be more pleasant. All that self-esteem crap.... That, and embarassed? Many of todays teens would make hardened criminals from the ‘50s blush with some of the things they say (out loud, in class, to the teacher...)
I think a lot of boys are taught that scholarship is unmanly, myself. Who are their role models? Some moron who chases a ball around? Some straight-up thuggin’ a-hole with his pants sagged around his ankles and a hood ornament around his neck? Or some jerkwater who is mommy’s boyfriend of the week whose chief concern in life is intoxication and orgasms, perhaps.... I’m not sure that reading methodology can overcome this sort of thing.
They’ve kicked out a lot of good male teachers. When I was in school there were a lot of male teachers still, great role models for my science and math and journalism classes. Even our orchestra leader was a good guy.
But less and less good men teaching in the classroom has a huge impact on young boys and men.
The “chickification” of America has long been the modus operandum of all culturally normalizing institutions; government, (that which passes for)education, entertainment, et cetera.
In virtually every retail business, restaurant, public service office or bank I enter I am served almost exclusively by females. Not very many years ago bank tellers, loan officers, financial advisers, etc, were men. Today I am surprised, almost shocked upon seeing a male teller or officer in a bank. Where are young men employed today? How do they earn a living? More than half of students in colleges/universities are females, and for good reason. For decades the not so subtle message has been that more and more female students are wanted. The other side of that coin can not have been lost on young men. They are not stupid, even as implicitly they are tagged un-needed, sociologially.
What seems to be the pattern is that the smarter kids, no matter how they are taught, will work their way through to phonics.
You may have been started with whole word, as I believe I was, but in a few years, you’re seeing the sounds inside the words.
It’s actually an interesting question whether anyone ever learns to read with sight-words. Maybe a few kids with near-photographic memories and willingness to work very hard for many years (compare learning Chinese).
What most kids, the ordinary kids, learn is to be functionally illiterate. We have 50,000,000 of them.
Google “42: Reading Resources” for a lot more.
“I was stunned in school...”
One of history’s great comments. Thanks. That’s what my article is about, but I needed more words.
Actually, I would posit Chinese, Japanese, and the other East Asian ideogram languages as evidence that phonics is unnecessary. In all those languages, symbols and sounds are completely unlinked, as the language has a very limited set of sounds, and inflection and context play a big part in conveying meaning. In other words, it is impossible to “sound out” the components of a given word, such as the chinese word “ma”, which depending on inflection, can mean “mother”, “horse”, “scold” (verb), and several others (each written with a completely different single ideogram). And yet, Asians in general outperform U.S. students in academics in all areas, which would be impossible to do without a strong foundation in comprehending written material. I’m not saying phonics doesn’t have a place in education, but to claim it’s going to fix, or even substantially improve, all the problems kids have with learning to read is naive at best.
I am a brave of 67 summers. My parents encouraged me to read, often to the detriment of my other studies. While in high school, I was introduced to Shakespeare, but I usually had some type of adventure novel going at home. I read voraciously in the military and really only stopped reading books when I discovered “Books on Tape,” so I can carry on “reading” while I’m exercising every day. It opened up a whole world to me; kids who don’t are depriving themselves of some free travel around the world.
Thanks...your post proves my point.
If you don’t insist that they read, they (most likely) won’t.
I’m not insinuating ANYthing about your parenting, so no need to get angry with me.
Point remains...if you don’t have reading goals that you uphold, kids usually won’t read.
Also, I know a few guys that have teaching degrees that cannot find a job, they tell me they always prefer the females. Sorry for my rants, I have a huge problem with the public schools and they are a sore subject with me.
One thing to keep in mind is how much the Education Establishment enjoys having smart citizens give them cover. Whoops, there goes another million illiterates.
Only the most scholarly Chinese can memorize even 20,000 of their symbols. Apparently a more normal number is well below 10,000. But English has a truly vast vocabulary. College kids need 100,000++ words. No human can memorize such a number. Furthermore, English words come lower case, UPPER CASE, script, etc.
For anyone who is curious what this avalanche of confusing graphic designs does to the brain, please Google “How Dolch Words Cause Illiteracy and Dyslexia,” a graphical video on YouTube. About 7 minutes but it tells the story well. (I have about ten videos about reading on YouTube.)
Actually, most literate chinese know around 20,000 words, and many of those are made up of combinations of ideograms, and the combinations have to be memorized separately, since they combine ideograms that have different meanings when not combined. The Chinese language has around 60,000 separate characters, and the really scholarly know ~45,000. Yes, English may have over 100,000 words, but if you’re going to drag in capitalization and font, then that’s another issue altogether. Chinese words, for example, also have numerous written forms analogous to machine print, hand print, cursive, and even classical calligraphy (so-called “grass script”), as well as simplified and traditional versions in print form. Further, many of those English words 100,000 are technical terms or compounded from simpler terms, which can be inferred from their root words, or from context. Phonics only conveys sound. You still have to memorize the meaning. That having been said, the original argument stands that ideogram-based languages require far more memorization than alphabet-based languages, and yet that hasn’t impaired the learning of cultures that use those languages.
Some of the crap they give for reading and testing is absolutely horrible and very girl-centric with bizarre names that you spend half the time trying to figure out how to pronounce.
You might see if your library has anything by Stephen Meader, who wrote many books for boys from 1920 to 1969. His books are easy to read and fast-paced, and their main characters provide success-oriented role models. Meader stopped writing such books after 1969 when sex, drugs, and street gangs began to show up in "young adult" literature, and he refused to change with the times.
Many of Meader's books have become collector's items, but they have been all been reissued by Southern Skies. They are also available at some public libraries.
An Old Fashioned Education has links to classic for boys as well as old series fiction that is available for free in digital form online. This site also has links to books that appeal to girls.