Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Gender Differences in Early Literacy: Analysis of Kindergarten through Fifth-Grade Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills Probes

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Gender Differences in Early Literacy: Analysis of Kindergarten through Fifth-Grade Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills Probes

Article excerpt

Approximately a century ago, Ayers (1909) expressed concern over a male deficit in reading achievement. These findings have been confirmed across researchers, populations, age/grade levels, and measures. For example, researchers compared reading scores for 367,188 eighth-grade students taking the Minnesota Basic Skills Test from 1996 through 2001 (Davenport et al., 2002). Gender differences in reading that favored females were found for each year and the effect size (approximately 0.17) remained relatively constant across years. Klecker's (2006) analysis of 4th-, 8th-, and 12th-grade students' National Assessment of Educational Progress reading comprehension scores from 1992 to 2003 showed that females outperformed males every year at all three grade levels. In 4th grade, effect sizes ranged from 0.13 to 0.27 and were larger in the 8th (0.27-0.43) and 12th (0.22-0.44) grades. Similar discrepancies have been documented in international samples (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2001). In addition, researchers examining reading disabilities found clear evidence of male vulnerability with male-to-female ratios ranging from 2.04 to 6.78 across students 7-10 years old (Berger, Yule, & Rutter, 1975; Coutinho & Oswald, 2005; Flannery, Liederman, Daly, & Schultz, 2000; Lovell, Shapton, & Warren, 1964; Wehmeyer & Schwartz, 2001).

Physiological-maturational and cultural-societal factors may be related to male deficits in reading skills (Holbrook, 1988). Researchers investigating physiological-maturational theories have examined processing differences. Sequential processing refers to the ability to process information in sequence, and simultaneous processing is the ability to integrate parts of information into a meaningful whole. Perhaps because of increased levels of fetal testosterone delaying the development of the left-brain hemisphere (Geschwind & Behan, 1982; Waber, 1979), males tend to perform better on tasks requiring simultaneous (visual) processing and worse on tasks involving sequential (auditory) processing (Naglieri & Rojahn, 2001; Naour, 2001; Witelson, 1976). Although both types of processing may affect reading skill development (Das, Kirby, & Jarman, 1979; Naour, 2001; Witelson, 1976), deficits in sequential processing may affect early literacy skill development by impairing students' ability to learn and perform sequentially oriented word attack skills (e.g., phonetic decoding), which are critical to pre-reading skills (Aaron, 1982).

Others posit that gender differences in reading skills are influenced by environmental or cultural/societal causes. Differential response theory is based on the assumption that teacher behavior towards students is influenced by both the behavior of a particular student, as well as the teacher's assumptions about what that student usually does or is likely to do. This hypothesis would suggest that teachers may hold higher expectations for females that turn into self-fulfilling prophecies (Bank, Biddle, & Good, 1980). Leinhardt, Seewald, and Engel (1979) found support for this hypothesis by coding teacher interactions with second-grade students during reading and mathematics instruction. Teachers made more academic contacts and spent more instructional time with girls during reading instruction and with boys during math instruction. Although there were no significant differences in initial achievement scores in either math or reading, differences favoring females were found in students' end of the year reading achievement scores.

Interest and/or motivation may also contribute to reading deficits in males (Brozo, 2002; Millard, 1997). Although boys prefer reading nonfiction and informational material that provides facts over fictional materials (Coles & Hall, 2001; Herz & Gallo, 1996), fictional reading is typically used during elementary school reading instruction (Brozo, 2002; Paris & Turner, 1994). …

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