Differently Literate: Boys, Girls, and the Schooling of Literacy

Differently Literate: Boys, Girls, and the Schooling of Literacy

Differently Literate: Boys, Girls, and the Schooling of Literacy

Differently Literate: Boys, Girls, and the Schooling of Literacy

Synopsis

Presents research into the differences in boys' and girls' experiences of the reading and writing curriculum at home and in school. The book is presented in three sections: an outline of the theoretical debates on gender difference and academic achievement; a description of the research into these issues conducted by the author; and an analysis of the author's findings. In discussing the outcome of her research, the author aims to highlight further areas for more detailed study and makes recommendations for the development of literacy policies, which cross curriculum boundaries in schools.

Excerpt

This book is the result of the bringing together of several strands of enquiry that have engaged my interest over the past ten years. The first of these is a sustained interest in the gendered nature of reading, which began as the work for an MA dissertation in Critical Theory, and which was subsequently published with the title Reading as a Woman (Millard, 1985). This pre-occupation subsequently widened into an interest in gendered differences in the acquisition and uses of literacy at all stages of education. I began this phase of research by questioning the nature of literacy and its relationship to contemporary social practices, in order to understand what tensions might be generated in the manner in which reading and writing are presented to pupils at home and in school. I sought to understand how we, as both teachers and parents, convey to pupils what we consider it is to be literate, both as part of a particular family and as a member of the wider social community and its institutions.

The second is a pedagogical concern for the development of effective methods of encouraging all pupils’ reading during the middle school years, age 8-14, based both on classroom experience and developmental work as an Advisory Teacher in Nottinghamshire for the early implementation of the National Curriculum in English, during the period 1989-90. Again, this interest widened when, during the first investigations into school-based reading habits, I became more and more conscious of the continuing influence of the home in shaping pupils’ orientation towards reading in school.

It is not the first occasion on which Sheffield Division of Education has been involved in investigating home influences on children’s reading. In 1975 Frank Whitehead prefaced an interim report to the Schools Council on Children’s Reading Interests with the provocative question, ‘Why bother to spend time and money investigating what children choose to read in their leisure time?’ Whitehead, with his colleagues, Capey and Maddren, were reporting on a survey conducted in March 1971, by means of two written questionnaires for pupils and schools in which just under 8,000 children, in a stratified random sample, had been questioned on their tastes in reading. From this research, teachers were alerted to the steady decline in the number of adolescents who chose to read any book for leisure. One of the findings they chose for comment, but to which, however, little attention was subsequently given, was the fact of boys’ lesser enthusiasm than girls’ for reading and, in particular, for reading works of fiction. The survey had found that by the age of 14, 36 per

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