Why Do Girls Read Better Than Boys?

by Cliff Ponder and Carolyn Caron

Teachers have long known that boys have a harder time learning to read than girls. Girls read better on average. Recently, however, the gap has narrowed considerable. Years ago boys with poor reading skills outnumbered girls by almost ten to one. Now the two are almost equal. No, boys haven't gotten better, but girls' overall reading skills have declined to the point that they almost mirror those of boys.

Educators and parents all over the country are searching for answers as to how this situation developed. We are, after all, the richest and most powerful country in the world [US], and we should be able to educate the populace.

Finally, after years of research, the answer and a solution have become clear. The reason boys have traditionally lagged behind girls is largely attributable to the differences in the male-female brain organization - the way their brains are wired. The two brains have two very different sets of neurological architecture. Females process reading in multiple places on both halves of the brain, while males read only within a narrow area in the left hemisphere.

Each area of the brain has its own unique function. Some areas process reading, while others process the concepts obtained from reading, and still others store visual images much like snapshots. These snapshot areas of the brain can't process language in any form.

Most reading instruction methods - both primary and remedial methods - rely heavily on processing words in the snapshot area of the brain, as though the words were pictures. In fact, pictures are often placed on flash cards alongside words in the hope that students will associate the picture of say, a cat, with the word "cat." This is a well-meaning but futile attempt to "force-feed" reading to an area of the brain that can't possibly process reading in any form. It is no wonder that the incoming data often becomes scrambled as it shuttles from one area to another within the brain, much like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Since females process reading in both sides of the brain they are somewhat better able to organize the scrambled data, so reading naturally comes easier for them than for males.

Another attempt at teaching reading involves using body language. Some of these methods require students to move certain body parts in sync with make the sounds that letters make. Some have students imitating the movements and sounds of animals in order to try to learn the sounds of the letters. Others have students feeling the shapes of letters cut from sandpaper or wood.

All of these methods involve organs that have no connection to reading. They are ineffective because only two organs are involved in reading - the eyes and the brain. Reading instruction methods that try to involve other organs are not only a waste of time, they may be counterproductive because they create confusion as they try to associate reading with organs that have no connection to reading.

Yet there are schools where boys and girls alike excel in reading. These schools use a reading instruction methodology that has been scientifically developed to cooperate with the brain's natural preference for handling incoming data, so male students learn to read as well as females. Needless to say, they don't use flash cards or animal sounds.

The entire faculties of some elementary schools have been certified in this method, and the results speak for themselves. Schools where students have struggled for years are suddenly turning out readers who can read everything from Dick, Jane and Spot to Shakespeare. These are not elite schools staffed by Ivy League professors, but ordinary, everyday American elementary schools like those in any typical community. Some of the student-bodies are composed entirely of students whose first language is other than English.

Recently a large school in the Boston area conducted a week-long training session for all their kindergarten through sixth-grade teachers. The principal, a man who holds a doctoral degree and who has many years' experience in education, stated at the close of the training, "I knew from the start that this method would work, but it has far exceeded all my expectations."

Must girls read better than boys? No, with the right teaching method both can learn to read well.

Return to Why Dick And Jane Failed.

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