According to the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), girls are outperforming boys in reading and writing and the gap widens as students progress through the grades. This trend also reflects attitudes towards literacy. The TDSB claims that boys are 3-5 times more likely to be diagnosed with a reading and/or learning disability, that boys read fewer books with less comprehension and also write with inferior fluency and style compared to their female counterparts.
So how do we get boys more interested in literacy? Many research studies have examined this issue as well as school boards and ministries of education around the world. If only the answer could be so simple! Clearly, simply exposing boys to books and literacy isn’t working the way many educators had hoped it would. It’s only a recent development that comic books and graphic novels are considered acceptable reading materials. These materials are more common in libraries today than when I was in elementary school (which really wasn’t that long ago!) Boys are reading more graphic novels and comics, but is this enough?
What if we get boys into literacy by post-literate means? By this I mean something along the lines of video games. Video games are very sophisticated storytelling vehicles that complement literacy skills. They contain plot, setting, narrative, characters, introductions and conclusions, not to mention many other facets of literacy. So let’s embrace what they love and turn video games into learning tools for the betterment of boys as well as girls and educators. If we are preparing children for the future by focusing on the values of the past, then we will surely kill literacy and alienate a whole generation of boys.