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The Gender Reading Gap in Japan


Bill Costello, who specializes in teaching parents and teachers strategies for educating boys, has published a column at EducationNews.org about his observation of a reading gap between boys and girls in Japan. Boys are outperforming girls in Japan in math, according to the 2006 Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA. But at the same time, Japanese girls are outperforming boys in reading, he writes. And the reading gender gap is more than 50 percent greater than the math gender gap, he notes.

Costello is concerned that the reading gender gap, of girls outperforming boys, is a problem all over the world, not just in Japan.

He urges the Japanese education ministry to take action on both the math and reading gaps.

There’s been a lot written about math gender gaps, though researchers still debate the size of those disparities and what might be causing them. But I haven't seen much published about reading gender gaps.

Readers, do you find girls to be more motivated readers than boys in your classes? What strategies have you discovered to draw more boys into reading?


I've found that boys tend to be more willing to read things that they find interesting. While this should not come as any big surprise, I'm always amazed at the gratitude that boys express when I tell them that it's OK for them to read Sports Illustrated for Kids or a gaming magazine during silent reading. Sometimes students feel as if I am breaking the rules for them. Sometimes, I can't help but wonder if I'm breaking some sort of code, as well.


I agree with the previous comment- the boys I've taught loved reading because I allowed them to choose. With my own sons, I find that they both love reading because they have choices. The present (old school) way of teaching reading is less about developing a love of the written word and more about basic skills through already decided upon text.

My son has generally been a reluctant reader--long preferring to be read to than to read himself, preferring picture books to those with lots of text, and as Andrew suggested, far more willing to invest time in reading when the topic was one that interested him. While Sports Illustrated is definitely not his thing--he falls for things like sorcery, Egyptian images, and has always studied the pictures in picture books (turning the page was always on his own schedule).

I recall at one point, when the district transferred him to a "special school" to better meet his needs, he responded in typical way by holding back from involvement with the class--but found escape by wandering over to the book shelf. This was, of course, a problem. We were in the process of negotiating a tough IEP, and I was getting help from a lawyer, who had come to know the district very well. She reported back to me that they were having this particular difficulty. She said that the head of special ed commented, "we should be able to handle a kid who just wants to read books--we are a school, after all!"

Moral--if there is one--sometimes you just gotta find the right "hook" for a kid.

Mary Ann: Thank you for posting info about my column. The feedback from your readers is useful.

More info about this topic may be found at: http://www.makingmindsmatter.com/articles-by-Bill-Costello.html

Luke Coles wrote an article about using poetry to teach boys for Canada's education journal. To read the article visit: http://www.dialogueonline.ca/article.php?id=93

He teaches Grade 8 English at a boys’ school and sent a survey to 60 past and current students; 37 replied and some of their comments are highlighted in the article.

Luke teaches Grade 8 English at a boys’ school in Toronto. The course is heavy on poetry, as experience has suggested it is a genre suited to boys: quickly constructed, perfect for cyberspace and blogs, free of many of prose’s formal limitations. Poetry can be shared as much or as little as the writer wishes. Last summer, he sent a survey to 60 past and current students; 37 replied and some of their comments are highlighted here.

Andrew, I completely understand the reluctancy in allowing our male (and female) students--the freedom of reading magazines during silent reading. Interestingly enough, I use them as tools for teaching nonfiction strategies and authoring tools of organization. The students love it. I also have found a great resource in graphic novels and biographies. Next month, I will be using the graphic biography of Malcolm X as an aside to reading a "regular" biography. It's time we acknowledge that reading Manga can be just as acceptable in teaching Gary Paulsen.

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