Boys, girls and reading

Ask the experts

March 04, 1998|By Regina Cicci

The Sun has assembled a panel of professionals to address your concerns about reading and your child. If you have a question, write to: Ask the Experts, Reading by 9, Features Dept., The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278

Question: In direct contradiction to The Quiet Literacy Crisis segment to your Reading By 9 series, I have noticed that boys score significantly lower than girls in the three areas related to language arts: reading, writing and language usage on MSPAP evaluations. I have studied this factor at my own school and throughout the state and almost always the numbers speak for themselves, girls are outperforming boys in most areas of MSPAP, but almost always in reading, writing and language usage.

Is there a developmental rationale for how genders learn to read?

Rocco Ferretti,

principal, Bodkin Elementary

Answer: Traditionally, experts have said that girls speak earlier than boys, use language better than boys and have fewer reading disabilities than boys. However, the research on use of first words and sentences is mixed. There does not seem to be much of a difference in boys and girls for early language development when groups of children are compared if they have similar backgrounds and exposure to language.

Teachers and principals observe that girls read better than boys. More boys are referred for special services as having reading disabilities. But when all children in school systems are studied (as in a big study in Connecticut led by Drs. Sally and Bennett Shaywitz) the incidence of reading disabilities is the same for girls and boys.

Reading disability is the most noticeable disorder in children in special education. Boys are often referred to special education because of behavior problems or attentional problems accompanied by hyperactivity. In girls, attentional problems without hyperactivity may be more common, so fewer girls are referred to special services.

Even though teachers report differences in how well boys and girls read, such differences are not supported by careful research using standardized tests on large numbers of children. More research is needed to determine why teachers continue to see a difference in spoken, read and written language in boys and girls. A possibility is that boys may not regard reading as an acceptable leisure activity so they may not get practice to reinforce their reading. More reading makes for better reading.

Regina Cicci, Ph.D., is director of the language and learning disorders clinic at University of Maryland Medical Systems. Her work focuses on diagnosis of language disorders, dyslexia, learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders.

Pub Date: 3/04/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.