Before Starting School, Boys Already Lag Behind Girls, Report Says

By Chika Dunu, Epoch Times
July 18, 2016 Updated: July 18, 2016    

It seems that reading bedtimes stories and nursery rhymes to children plays a more important role than we might think.

The low level of participation by boys in activities such as storytelling and nursery rhymes have resulted in their lower literacy rates and language skills in comparison to girls, according to a new report released by the charity organization, Save Our Children. 

The report based on U.K.’s University of Bristol study titled “The Lost Boys: How boys are falling behind in their early years” found that boys are nearly twice as likely as girls to fall behind in basic language skills by the start of school, which stems from a lack of support for language and literacy development in both the home and classroom.

Boys are more likely to engage in sports activities in their early years than girls, whereas girls spend more time with their mothers tapping into artistic skills such as painting, drawing, and singing songs than their male counterparts. This in turn has stunted the ability to articulate complete sentences and to answer  “how” and “why” questions for nearly 80,000 boys in England during last year’s academic calendar.

“The gender gap [in which boys fall behind in language and literacy] is well-documented,” the study reads. “It has hardly changed for 5-year-olds over the past decade, despite a dramatic improvement in overall results. The difference in outcomes for boys and girls is having a devastating impact; nearly a million boys have fallen behind with their early language skills since 2006. That is nearly a million 5-year-olds who may struggle with skills like explaining what they think and how they feel, and engaging with the adults and children around them.”

According to the report, children who live in poverty fall further behind at higher reports. During the 2015 school year, 38 percent of boys eligible for free school meals (FSMs) fell behind in early language and communication, while 23 percent of FSM-eligible girls fell behind in early language and communication. The gender gap in poverty stricken areas such as St. Helens, where boys began primary school 17.3 percentage points behind their female peers. The national gender gap average is 11 percentage points. 

Adult behavior has altered boys’ self-perceptions. Due to societal expectations and gender identities, boys are led to believe that they aren’t readers or writers.

The report suggests that early intervention can prevent boys from suffering poor academic results, which can follow them well into adulthood. Not only are schools expected to take action but so are parents.

Parents are encouraged to negate societal standards and instead read books to their children, take them to the library, and teach letters to both genders as early as 3 years old, which would have a significant impact at age 5. With high quality education, the gender gap can be reduced. 

“We cannot wait for disadvantaged children and boys to get to school before they receive the support they need. By this time many will have already fallen behind, with negative consequences for their childhoods, school attainment and life chances,” concluded the report. “We must invest in the best early years provision, led by early years teachers and supported by skilled staff at all levels, particularly in the most deprived areas.”