Volume 96, Issue 69
Friday, January 31, 2003

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Study says boys may actually be literate

Jillian Van Acker
Gazette Staff

Boys are dumb – or so girls say anyway. However, a recent study on boys and literacy suggests boys are merely interested in different texts than girls.

"Traditionally, boys are not interested in literacy," said Kathy Sanford, assistant professor of education at the University of Victoria and co-author of the study entitled Morphing Literacy: Boys Reshaping Their Literacy.

"Boys are more interested in non-fiction texts. They need purpose, humour and active involvement," Sanford said.

Sanford said schools focus more on fiction, which is more in line with texts that girls traditionally prefer to read.

"We don't recognize the things boys like to do," Sanford said. "Reading is associated [with] novels and we need to broaden kids' awareness of what constitutes literature."

Michael Kehler, a Western professor in the faculty of education, said gender and childhood literacy are complex issues to research.

"Not all boys like reading," Kehler said. "By saying we need to increase boys' literacy, we have to be careful of the boy culture we're teaching, such as certain versions of masculinity, [including] violence and aggression."

Sanford said boys read material that deals more with technology, allowing boys to acquire skills more useful in the workplace.

"Various software is used for helping children to read," said Perry Klein, also a professor in the faculty of education at Western. "These programs are widely used by schools as well as parents."

Klein said, traditionally, the forms of literature taught in schools are composed of poems and stories. "However, the Ontario program is already consistent with children reading different materials, which include a variety of fiction and non-fiction," Klein said.

"I read novels as well as non-fiction, like biographies and history books, when I was younger," said Andrew Middleton, a first-year international comparative studies student at Huron University College. "In school, we read more of the classics."

Middleton added his three sons prefer to read novels, such as Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings.

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2002 THE GAZETTE