The NAPLAN results make it plain to see. Boys are falling behind when it comes to literacy.
The breakdown of the 2017 NAPLAN results, released this week, shows that nearly 25 per cent of boys in Year 9 don’t meet the minimum standard when it comes to writing. Girls are clearly outperforming boys in all age groups.
Yay for girls. But what’s going on with boys? And as parents of sons, what can we be doing to help them?
Professor Robyn Cox, the president of the Primary English Teaching Association of Australia, says the results aren’t showing anything new. For her, there are several reasons why boys aren’t doing as well in literacy as girls.
“Most teenage boys want to be out doing stuff,” she tells Mamamia. “Also, in primary school, reading is seen as a more feminised behaviour. Primary school teachers are often female. It’s not something a lot of young men go into. We’ve got limited male role models reading in schools.”
Professor Cox praises the Rugby League Reads campaign run by NRL clubs which encourages young sports-loving kids to read. She’d also like to see Australia follow the example of the UK, where giant pictures of David Beckham reading are plastered on the sides of buses. She thinks it could be done in Australia with high-profile local sports stars.
“It’s just telling boys that it’s something boys can do. Boys can read for pleasure.”
LISTEN: We debate whether NAPLAN stress is too much for kids, or if they need to harden up. Post continues after audio.
Professor Cox also believes there’s a “dire need” for more good books to be written for teenage boys. She says boys love reading authors like Andy Griffiths at primary school, but there needs to be something they want to move up to afterwards.
“It’s that line between Andy Griffiths and then being able to read that Year 12 stuff.”
So what can parents to do improve their sons’ – and daughters’ – literacy? Professor Cox has a few suggestions.
Buy fun books.
For babies, give them books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar or others that can be pushed, squeezed, or played with in some way.
“Even if they’re chewing on it, or you’ve got them in the bath, playing with it, it’s just indicating that there’s some pleasure to be had in engaging with a book.”