Boys can read too;Literacy;Reviews;Books

19th March 1999 at 00:00
BOYS AND READING. Edited by Myra Barrs and Sue Pidgeon. Centre for Language in Primary Education (CLPE). pound;8

This collection of reports by primary and secondary teachers into boys' reading has an authentic, chalk-face quality.

The introduction establishes that the perceived gap between boys and girls' literacy is nothing new and shows the complexity of the issues involved: from the kinds of text on offer, to gender expectations and social class, peer-group pressure, role models, and gendered ways of reading. None of these factors is seen as amounting to an explanation.

The authors resist gender stereotyping; they do not assume that boys prefer information texts, or are incapable of getting "inside" books empathetically, or cannot reveal their feelings about characters and situations. What links their ideas is an emphasis on imaginative practices to help boys articulate their thoughts about books. Their approaches include reading as a shared activity, structured reading, journal-writingrole play, intensive reading through literature circles, and focused book boxes.

The teachers regard boys as having similar literacy potential as girls, but also needing specific strategies to help them overcome the conflict between macho constructions of maleness in society, and their private and often emotional responses to books.

The activities described here are not new, but they remind us that knowledge of children's literature and understanding its potential to develop children's sense of who they are can produce reading that will both stimulate boys' enthusiasm, and raise their reading scores.

Carol Fox Carol Fox is a senior lecturer in education at the University of Brighton

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