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Early Reviews for Why Boys Fail

Reviews for Why Boys Fail, which is released this week, come from a reporter at education.com and a book reviewer for an online publication aimed at librarians.

The education.com review gets more into the issue, while the other deals more with how the book is structured, astutely observing that I wrote the book as an extended commentary. That's my background and that's how I wanted the book to read. I had one big point to make, and I wanted to make sure that point didn't get lost in a swarm of observations about boys in school.

The review from Voices of Youth Advocacy:

Whitmire, Richard. Why Boys Fail: Saving Our Sons from an Educational System That's Leaving Them Behind. AMACOM, 2010. 256p. $24.95. 978-0-8144-1534-4. Source Notes. Appendix.

Whitmire, a highly respected former USA Today education writer, creates a thorough, thought-provoking look at the increasing achievement gap between boys and girls. Questioning the usefulness of federally mandated tests based on reading comprehension and verbal skills--abilities young men often struggle with at seemingly younger ages--his conclusion is a simple one: "The world is becoming more verbal; boys aren't." Why, then, does this gap persist? According to the author, entrenched attitudes that focus on race and class at the expense of gender make research into differences between the genders too hot to handle, even though the problem has been proven to exist in upper income communities from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Wilmette, Illinois. Family wealth and ethnicity are not the culprits but rather a combination of brain development and lack of literacy skills. Males tend to pick up verbal skills at later ages than females, while school curricula shift from the phonics and reading instruction boys need in the upper elementary and middle school grades to grammar and literature.

Using a combination of statistics and published studies (nearly all from Australia as this issue has largely been ignored in the U.S.), Whitmire describes programs that both have succeeded and failed in raising boys' academic performances and calls for ongoing, federally funded gender research. This engaging read, reminiscent of a highly polished op-ed piece, offers arguments that could be used by librarians, social workers, teachers, and other youth advocates to fund literacy and related programs for boys.
--Jay Wise.
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