The last 30 years have seen a major push to dispel academic stereotypes, like the idea that math and science are just for boys, but there’s another bias in the classroom that isn’t getting enough attention. A study published recently in the journal Child Development shows how gender bias toward reading is discouraging boys’ early academic development.
How Book Bullying Holds Boys Back
Reading is one of the few areas in which gender bias places emphasis on a girl’s ability to excel. Boys aren’t expected to do as well. While this can lead to insecurity when it comes to reading, researchers found something surprising. Confidence didn’t have a major impact on the development of reading skills. Peer pressure did.
In schools with more gender-based reading bias, boys bullied one another for showing an interest in reading. Researchers found that in these classrooms, boys:
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– Read less
– Felt less confident when reading
– Developed reading skills at a slower pace
These can haunt boys further, as a lack of early reading skills is too often misinterpreted as a child having special needs. Behavior disorder diagnoses often go hand-in-hand with learning disorder labels, setting boys on a path filled with obstacles.
Fortunately, there are ways every dad can improve the academic progress of the boys in their children’s classes – whether they are involved in their daily lives or not. Teachers aren’t the only people who impact gender bias in classrooms. Parents have a big influence.
Three Easy Ways Dads Can Inspire Boys to Read
Dads inspire children through their own actions, but they can encourage boys to feel comfortable with reading in a few specific ways:
1. Dads can be readers. Kids learn best through example, and so it has a lot of impact to see dad reading books and magazines. It means more to go visit a library or a bookstore where dad is finding books for himself and not just for the kids. Demonstrate the importance of reading in your own life and your kids are more likely to do the same.
2. Dads can read to their children. Dads make everything more fun, reading included! Help your kids discover their favorite stories. Non-fiction titles for kids can be exciting too.
3. Dads can volunteer to read in the classroom. Look back on your childhood and think about the people who read to you as a child. Teachers, librarians, daycare providers. They’re most often women, so is it any wonder boys grow up associating reading with girls? Get involved and show kids that men excel at reading too.
How Dads Can Make a Difference From a Distance
Not every father is allowed to be involved in his child’s daily life. It’s heartbreaking, but custody battles and distance issues might prevent dads from reading bedtime stories or showing up in their kids’ classrooms. What can men do in these situations to put their children and their friends on the right track?
1. Make books a priority. Give them on birthdays and holidays. Give reading devices and credit for online bookstores. Talk to your kids about their favorite reads.
2. Offer to buy the classroom more books when possible. Being long-distance doesn’t always mean you can’t contact your child’s school or teacher. Donations are one option for being involved when volunteering isn’t an option.
3. Introduce your kids to inspiring books they’ll grow to love. Some of the most iconic titles for boys include Hatchet by Gary Paulson, The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Whether or not you have primary custody of your child, whether you have boys or girls, every dad can encourage boys to embrace reading. Have a favorite book or magazine? Please recommend the titles below.