I know, that's a surprising statement to most people, now that I write action-adventures & mysteries for kids. My reasoning is that I'm attempting to create the kinds of books that I would have enjoyed as a child. Hopefully my work is making a dent in the problem of struggling and reluctant readers, especially boys.
In addition to writing original material for these young readers, I'm happy to display additional books and resources from others on this blog. That has resulted in reviews and announcements for a number of books for kids by other authors.
Today I want to address parents, educators, classroom teachers, librarians, and others who are working to help boys who struggle in our education system, with a resource that you may find helpful. The book, Why Boys Fail, by Richard Whitmire, is just such a resource.
Hard Numbers and Alarming Facts about Boys
· Nationwide, nearly twice as many boys as girls repeat a grade.
· In preschool, boys are four and a half times more likely to get expelled than girls. In the K-12 years, boys are twice as likely to get suspended and three times more likely to get expelled.
· On federal writing tests for 12th graders, more than a quarter of males score “below basic,” compared to 11 percent of females. In reading, a third of male students fall below basic, compared to 22 percent of females. Only 29 percent of male high school seniors are reading at the proficient and advanced levels, compared to 41 percent of females.
· The grade advantage long held by girls appears to be broadening. In 1990, both girls and boys had “C” grade-point averages, according to the Education Department’s High School Transcripts Study. By 2005, the gap widened to a “B” for girls and a “C+” for boys. According to the Higher Education Research Institute’s 2007 survey of college freshmen, 28 percent of women report a high school grade point average of “A” or “A+,” compared to 21 percent of men.
· Twice as many girls as boys were members of the National Honor Society in 2007. From 2006 through 2008, all the first place winners of the Intel Science Search were female.
· 54 percent of female high school sophomores are enrolled in a college-preparatory curriculum, compared to 48 percent of males.
· Overall, only 65 percent of our nation’s boys graduate from high school, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s most recent “national report card,” released in the spring of 2009.
· In the arena of higher education, a wide gender gap has opened up for students of all races. Among whites, women earn 62 percent of associate degrees, nearly 58 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 62 percent of master’s degrees, and 54 percent of doctoral degrees. Among blacks, women earn 61 percent of associate degrees, 66 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 72 percent of master’s degrees, and 64 percent of doctoral degrees.
· Young boys, ages 10 to 14, are twice as likely as young girls to commit suicide; young men, ages 20 to 24, are six times as likely.
· Among high school seniors, 23 percent of white males from college-educated families score “below basic” on federal reading tests, compared to 7 percent of females.
Actions for Parents:
· Volunteer for a reading tutoring program. Struggling readers need extra help and encouragement from adults. Book Buddies and HOSTS (Help One Student To Succeed) are two highly-targeted tutoring/mentoring programs credited with having a major impact on boys’ achievement. If your local school lacks such a program, lobby the principal to start one. Then, urge friends, relatives, and colleagues to join your volunteer effort.
· Welcome boy-friendly books. Many boys are only interested in books that girls (and Moms) find silly, too violent, or just plain gross. If your son prefers Captain Underpants to Bridge to Terebithia, don’t worry. Giving your son boy-friendly books will help him become not only an early and proficient reader, but also a voracious one.
Actions for Educators:
· Experiment more with K-12 reading programs. Consider the success of the Comic Book Project. Elementary school teachers wrap comic books and graphic novels into their reading curriculum, pressing students to analyze the text and pictures for mood, tone, and character development. Now in 860 schools around the country, this creative approach works, getting boys excited about breaking down a novel into its working parts.
· Focus on phonics. Reading experts overwhelmingly agree: Boys need phonics instruction more than girls. Boys are less adept at intuiting the structure of language, which means teachers need to make it more explicit for them. Besides letting boys sound out words, phonics lends itself to being taught in computer labs, with video-game-style hand controllers that boys thrill to using.
· Intensify literacy instruction in middle and high schools. After the elementary grades, most schools make a gradual transition from literacy to literature, leaving behind legions of weak readers, most of them boys. For boys to catch up on literacy, middle and high schools must embrace a collaborative effort to turn every teacher into a reading teacher. Reading and writing assignments should be standard in all subjects, including math.
· Make high school more relevant. Giving boys a reason to care about high school will get more of them to stay until graduation. California High Tech High charter schools keep boys by combining hands-on learning with a college-prep curriculum. Career academies, like Braden River High School in Bradenton, Florida, help students see the relationships between the skills they need to earn a living and the academics in the classroom.
Adapted from WHY BOYS FAIL: Saving Our Sons from an Educational System That’s Leaving Them Behind by Richard Whitmire (AMACOM; January 2010; $24.95 Hardcover; ISBN: 978-0-8144-1534-4). For more information contact Irene Majuk at 212/903-8087 / firstname.lastname@example.org
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