ADE: Large gap in literacy among boys and girls

BROOKLAND, AR (KAIT) - There is a large gap in literacy rates between male and female students in Arkansas.

According to 2012 school performance data reports, females are ahead by at least five percent in most Region 8 school districts from third to eighth grade.

"Typically, boys don't like to read as much as girls, especially the older they get," Brookland curriculum director Dr. Nicole Covey said.

However, Covey said the Brookland School District is trying to close this gender gap.

"Have books that you know are going to interest boys and have the time available in the classroom that the students can do that free reading in books that interest them," Covey said.

The school is in the middle of its three-day winter screening to check on students' reading levels. These tests evaluate how well students can read and explain what they just read.

"At such a young age, if we don't get those basic skills, that basic foundation in place, then those kids tend to not enjoy reading at all," Covey said. "The comprehension, the fluency, how quickly they're able to read, the accuracy. That's really important when students are reading text."

Brookland Elementary tests students three times a year to see how well they understand the vocabulary, punctuation and pictures in what they read.

"No matter what it is they're reading, you've got to find a way to get that information to make inferences, to make generalizations, or just to be able to put in your own words what is was that you just read, and what you're going to do with that information," Covey said.

Covey said these skills help in every subject area.

"The younger we start them and give them those more opportunities with things that they enjoy reading, I think the better off that will tend to last as they get older," Covey said.

Covey said test scores prove this. Even though a literacy gap still exists, it is smaller than it was when the screenings started five years ago.

"Our test scores have continued to rise in literacy, not only with what the elementary is doing, but it tends to carry over to the middle school as well," Covey said. "And we're starting to see those increases now into the junior high, now that those students are getting to be that age."

Covey said parents should also find any opportunity they can to read with their child.

"It doesn't have to be books," Covey said. "Make the child sound off as many words as they can on the menus so they can pick what to eat, read billboards as you're going down the street, when you're at church on Sunday morning, have the child read the bulletin to you. Any time that they're sounding out words and they're telling you what things mean that they're reading, that's just gonna help them in the long run."

Covey said these reading rookies still need reading skills when they are all grown up.

"It all ties together," Covey said. "And all of those are foundational skills that we just continue to build upon all the way through adulthood because, even as adults, we're lifelong learners."

To see your school district's literacy rates, visit the Arkansas Department of Education website.

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