A study published by Dobbs-Oates & Baroody concludes that preschool girls show more interest in literacy activities than do boys of the same age range.
So what? You might think - boys have other interests. Well, yes, but an interest in literacy means much more than just that:
- The more a child is interested in books and in reading, the less he is likely to suffer from attention deficit, hyperactivity, withdrawal and aggression.
- Research has shown that Preschoolers' early literacy skills are related to children's later reading skills and achievement in elementary school.
- Research also shows that reading skills in first grade are related to reading achievement in secondary school.
If pre-school boys are not interested in reading, they will not have the skills necessary for reading success, and they will must likely be poor readers in high-school.
Why don't boys like to read?
This of course is an over-generalization. Many boys very much enjoy reading, and many girls don't. Gender preferences work more like a scale than they do a straight separation. Most children, boys and girls, are not on the white end or the black end, they are a different shade of grey.
Having said that, there are a few possible explanations for boys being less interested in reading than girls:
- The purpose of the book has a lot to do with it: girls read for enjoyment whereas boys tend to read more non-fiction, practical books (to learn about something in particular).
- In pre-school, however, teachers are mainly female, and tend to choose books that tell children a story (narrative) and that are more nurturing in nature. These may be less appealing to boys than to girls, and boys may lose interested in reading.
- The themes of preschool books also may be more nurturing and therefore more geared towards girls than boys, who prefer action-driven (super-heroes), scary (pirates, vilains) or practical books (trucks, dinosaurs).
- Books available at school or at home for young children may not be the genre that appeals to boys, and therefore, they are less likely to want to read.
- Parents who believe reading is enjoyable and view their children as capable are more likely to read to them and to provide literacy experiences, which would influence the pre-schooler's interest in reading.
Helping your son develop a love for reading
The difference in interest between boys and girls may only be due to our choices and expectations as parents and educators. Here are some tips to gain more interest:
Go to the library together and help your child choose books that interest him. If you would like to expose him to better literary choices, you can invite him to choose one book to read, and ask if you could chose a second one. Your son will be delighted to have two stories read to him, and you will be able to choose a good book while at the same time reading the one he chooses.
Read as a family. Read to your child every day and encourage your child to read with you, side by side, each with your own book. Children who see their parents reading for pleasure learn that reading is a pleasurable activity, and become great readers.
Donate a few good books to your child's junior kindergarten or pre-school that cater to the interest of your son, sharing what you have learned with the teachers. As this is very recent research, many teachers may not be aware of what books are best for young boys.
Literacy skills are also acquired by writing. Encourage your son to invent his own adventure books and write and illustrate them. This will develop his creativity and instill an interest in the written language.
The most important factor in being a lifelong reader is to actually love reading. Continue reading together once your son is able to read by himself.
Getting your young child to be interested in books now will have lifelong repercussions and is well worth the dedication. Happy reading!