Sometime in the mid-1960s, I began to take an interest in boys. However, the boys in my class did not reciprocate that interest.
I complained to my mother about this deficit in the male of the species. She assured me things would pick up eventually. “Boys,” Mom said, “take longer to mature than girls.” I expect I rolled my eyes.
Last month, my local children's librarian (a mature boy) introduced me to the book “Raising Boy Readers,” with more than 300 recommended boy-friendly books, by Michael Sullivan.
I have to give Mom points. Somehow, without ever having read a single scientific study, she understood the truth about the differences in the maturity rates between boys and girls.
But the science behind the facts, as revealed by Sullivan, is both compelling and enlightening.
Did you know that, on average, girls' brains reach their full adult size by age 11? But boys' brains achieve this growth around age 14. (page 2).
Sullivan calls this phenomenon “brain-lag.” This brain-lag is responsible for the gaps in verbal and written language skills often seen between girls and boys.
Boys catch up to girls eventually, but not until they are 15 years old. Sullivan writes “It isn't that boys don't read as well as girls; they simply read at a different time ”
The chances are then that, whatever standardized tests may indicate, most fourth-grade boys aren't behind in their truly appropriate reading levels, just in that pseudo-appropriate reading level set by the powers that be.
What a relief! Still, the pseudo-level (and resulting bogus grade) may leave boys discouraged and turned off to reading.
This is an outcome adults can change, according to Sullivan, by giving boys reading-for-pleasure time.
In “Raising Boy Readers,” Sullivan lists 300 books from which to choose.
Get Sullivan's book. Or ask your own children's librarians for suggestions. They would love to help you. Sometimes they're even boys.