Thursday, August 2, 2007

Why Johnny Doesn't Read

It's been my experience—in talking with so many kids, parents, teachers and librarians—that most reluctant readers are boys. There's simply no denying it.

This fact was on my mind as I read the excellent cover story by David Von Drehle's in the current Time magazine titled "The Myth About Boys."

With some hope and a little trepidation, I read about boys making great strides in current years, that all the media hoopla about American boys going to "you-know-where" in a hand basket have been overplayed, and that boys are making a big comeback. (Sidebar: what the heck is a "hand basket" anyway?) But as I made my way through the article, I knew in the back of my mind what was coming; it was like waiting for the "you-know-what" to hit the fan. I kept reading...and then..."Pow!" right in the kisser:

"Reading is a problem. The standardized NAEP test, known as the nation's report card, indicates that by the senior year of high school, boys have fallen nearly 20 points behind their female peers."

Despite all their progress, boys still stink statistically in reading. No surprise. That's what I hear all the time. But reading it in Time still smarts.

And then this: "Too many boys are leaving school functionally illiterate." As Homer Simpson would say, "DOH!"

But just when I thought the worst was over, this one actually made me flinch: "In the late 1970s, roughly 1 in 20 boys was obese; today 1 in 5 is." Chunky boys who don't read! (My head hurts.)

So...what's to be done? The article mentions that things are getting better reading-wise for younger boys, mostly because people are now focused on it, which, in turn, means that our actions can make a difference. We need to get boys reading! As the writer states so plainly: "In an economy increasingly geared toward processing information, an inability to read becomes an inability to earn."

Bottom line: We can make a difference by working harder and smarter to get books into the hands of boys.

To read "The Myth About Boys" click here.

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