Girls like reading more than boys do, but that doesn't explain why they do better on reading tests, according to the 2015 Brown Center Report on American Education.
Girls enjoy reading more than boys and they consistently outscore boys on international tests, research shows.
So if we could get boys to like reading better, they would get better at it, too, right?
The idea makes intuitive sense, but the data don’t support it, according to researcher Tom Loveless, author of the latest Brown Center Report on American Education published by the Brookings Institution.
Girls have outscored boys on reading tests in the U.S for decades and similar gender gaps show up in international comparisons, according to the report.
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One international test — the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA — tests the reading ability of 15-year-olds around the world.
On the 2000 and 2009 tests, students also were asked several questions about how much they like reading and their answers were compiled into an “enjoyment index.”
Girls scored much higher on this index than boys, prompting many efforts to boost boys’ enjoyment of reading.
But when Loveless compared the 2000 and 2009 tests, changes in enjoyment didn’t track with changes in test scores.
For example, in Germany and France, boys’ reading enjoyment increased the most out of the 27 countries reporting results. But while boys’ reading scores in Germany improved, they declined in France.
And boys in Portugal and Poland enjoyed reading less in 2009 than they did in 2000, according to the index, yet their scores improved.
Loveless found no evidence, at least from PISA, that girls are better at reading because they like it more.
It could be that girls enjoy reading because they’re good at it.
Fostering a love of reading may be worthwhile anyway, even if it doesn’t boost test scores, Loveless says in an article published online this week in Education Next by the Hoover Institution at Stanford.
Toward that end, parents may want to check out a new book, Raising Kids Who Read, by cognitive psychologist Daniel Willingham,
In this Q&A with NPR, Willingham emphasizes one of the main points of his book: Moms and dads who want children to love reading should show them every day how much they enjoy and value reading themselves.