Friday, September 24, 2010

Boys who don't read

The key to reading well is to read a lot. But the fact is that boys in particular are reading less and less. In "How to Raise Boys That Read (As Much as Girls Do)" Thomas Spence explains the simple—although not necessarily easy—solution:
.... According to a recent report from the Center on Education Policy...substantially more boys than girls score below the proficiency level on the annual National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test. This disparity goes back to 1992, and in some states the percentage of boys proficient in reading is now more than ten points below that of girls. The male-female reading gap is found in every socio-economic and ethnic category, including the children of white, college-educated parents. ....

The appearance of the boy-girl literacy gap happens to coincide with the proliferation of video games and other electronic forms of entertainment over the last decade or two. Boys spend far more time "plugged in" than girls do. ....

Dr. Robert Weis, a psychology professor at Denison University, confirmed this suspicion in a randomized controlled trial of the effect of video games on academic ability. Boys with video games at home, he found, spend more time playing them than reading, and their academic performance suffers substantially. Hard to believe, isn't it, but Science has spoken.

The secret to raising boys who read, I submit, is pretty simple—keep electronic media, especially video games and recreational Internet, under control (that is to say, almost completely absent). Then fill your shelves with good books.

People who think that a book—even R.L. Stine's grossest masterpiece—can compete with the powerful stimulation of an electronic screen are kidding themselves. But on the level playing field of a quiet den or bedroom, a good book like "Treasure Island" will hold a boy's attention quite as well as "Zombie Butts from Uranus." Who knows—a boy deprived of electronic stimulation might even become desperate enough to read Jane Austen.

Most importantly, a boy raised on great literature is more likely to grow up to think, to speak, and to write like a civilized man. Whom would you prefer to have shaped the boyhood imagination of your daughter's husband—Raymond Bean or Robert Louis Stevenson?

I offer a final piece of evidence that is perhaps unanswerable: There is no literacy gap between home-schooled boys and girls. ....
I wonder if I would have learned to read well, or read as much, if I had grown up in the age of the computer. I know that I now spend more time reading on the screen than I do between the covers of a book.

This list of "50 Best Books for Boys and Young Men" includes quite a few titles that I know and love and the site that provides the list looks interesting in other respects, too: The Art of Manliness.

How to Raise Boys That Read (As Much as Girls Do): Not With Gross-Out Books and Video Game Bribes - WSJ.com, 50 Best Books for Boys and Young Men | The Art of Manliness