Reading and Writing

Date: Mon Feb 07 2000 - 17:22:07 EST


I have just joined this mailing list. My question is related to the
"other" gender gap -- reading and writing. While much has been done in the
areas of math and science, very little work has been done to address why
boys do significantly worse than girls in reading and writing. According to
the NAEP in these subjects, there are very significant gender gaps across
all emographic groups and achievement levels.

A search of the ERIC database revealed no research in this area over the
last everal years. In addition, with the exception of one comment by
Secretary iley, I have not been able to find any evidence that the
Department of ducation has acknowledged that there is even a gender gap in
these subjects. Whle reading and writing have been identified as a priority
by this dministration, there seems to be little quantitative evidence that
programs sch as the Reading Excellence Act or the America Reads Challenge
have had ny effect on male performance in these subjects.

Although I am by no means a reading expert, it seems to me that there are
two dstinct parts to the reading and writing gender gap. First, for
various rasons, boys in general tend to have more difficulty developing the
technical skills in these subjects, or develop them later than girls.
Schools and teachers are doing a relatively good job in addressing this
problem. However, in my opinion, it is only half the problem. From what I
have seen, there is a definite belief among many preteen and teenage boys
that reading and writing is "girls stuff." This attitude can readily be
by looking at the gender composition of High School literary magazines and
similar organizations. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find any
school, teacher, or organization that is systematically working to change
this stereotype.

It amazes and frustrates me to see the different reaction to math and
science, and reading and writing. For some background, I am a mother and a
computer engineer working in the area of human-computer interfaces. I have
been involved with my children's schools in several activities to increase
the interest of girls in computers and science. All of this was done with
the enthusiastic support of the teachers and schools. However, when I
suggested that we can do similar things to get boys interested in reading
writing, the reaction was complete indifference. The attitude of the
teachers seemed to match that of the students -- "I am going to be an
engineer, (lawyer, EMT, etc.), why do I need to be able to read and write
well?" I don't think I need to explain the problems with that argument.
you don't believe me, read the manual that came with your computer.)

I am sorry this is so long. The whole topic is beginning to frustrate me.
Why is this not considered to be a serious problem? Why does the
that "boys just aren't interested in reading and writing and there is
we can do about it" seem to be so prevalent? I hope there are some experts
out there who can help me with this.


Stephanie Barlow

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