Boys and Literacy: Rhetoric and Reality
MetadataShow full item record
The gendered features of children's development in early literacy, particularly those that contribute to the generally poorer performance of boys, were explored in a dual-phase questionnaire study, conducted across schools in South East Queensland. The potential influences of school type (private and state) and gender-composition of a class (mixed-gender and single-gender schools) on performances of boys were tested on two state-wide tests (The Year 2 Diagnostic Net for Reading; The Reading Development Continuum) and a standardised measure (The St Lucia Reading Comprehension Test). Children and parents were surveyed to determine the locus of significant differences between girls and boys in relation to attitudes to reading, being read to and to constructs of self and others as readers. Girls presented as more positive across these measures. They indicated greater interest in reading and being read to. They reported reading across a wider range of genres for both school and recreational purposes and selected reading as a preferred activity in comparison with others. Boys were more reluctant readers. They displayed poorer attitudes generally and reported reading less in quantity and frequency in both school and home settings. The notion of girls and boys maintaining a positive or negative "image" emerged from a small but influential subset. This derivation was consistent with perceptions of gender-bias in gender-preferences. The profile of achievement across the three measures yielded a story of difference. Boys in private school settings were significantly less likely than girls to obtain higher Continuum scores and boys in state school settings were less likely than girls to be rated as proficient in the Year Two Net Test. Boys from private schools and in single-gender situations outperformed all other subgroups on the Net. Yet, they obtained the worst result on the Continuum, and were in the middle rank on the standardised test. Whether in private or state schools, boys were likely to obtain lower average Continuum scores than females. This was a statistically significant difference in the private school sector. While boys in Private Schools were slightly more likely than girls to be rated as proficient in the Year Two Net test, boys in state schools were far less likely than girls to be rated as proficient on the Year Two Net test, a statistically significant difference. Children attending single-gender, private schools attained higher aggregate scores on the attitude subtests of the Continuum than their state school counterparts. However, children in comparable, mixed-gender, private schools performed neither better nor worse than their peers in single-gender private schools. This comparison does not support contentions that single-gender schooling is superior in relation to the literacy achievements of emergent readers. When comparisons were made at the most general level (male vs. female, private vs. state school) gender did not predict scores in the externally administered St. Lucia Reading Comprehension Test scores. The significant relationship for girls at state schools on the Net test and for girls at private schools on the Continuum (both internally-based measures), coupled with the non-significant differences in relation to the St. Lucia Reading Comprehension Test points to the possibility that internally-based ratings are to some extent driven by teacher perceptions of literacy competence, and such perceptions may at times be unreliable. The corollary observation that not only was the measurement of attitude provided by the Continuum Attitude score significantly correlated with the St. Lucia reading test but also that the latter was not directly influenced by gender affirmed the notion that a school culture of gendered literacy is influencing teacher attitudes related to the achievement of literacy. What analyses of home background capture is the surprisingly lack of any connection between these tacitly understood underpinnings of literacy and the achievement thereof. The lack particularly of any connection between the teacher reading to students and the achievement of literacy was also surprising. In relation to literacy practice, the three most highly identified male activities (kicking a ball, computer games, playing outside) grouped to form a distinct factor (subscale) and this factor score was positively associated at a statistically significant level with scores on the St Lucia Reading test. Not only did private school children obtain better scores on the St. Lucia test, it was private school students whose identification of this highly stereotypically set of male activities linked significantly with an external measure of the achievement of literacy. This linkage seems indicative of an enhanced ability to read social codes more generally and is probably reflective of the social space occupied by private school students. In sum, while students, parents, and teachers fairly consistently displayed a heavily gendered culture with regard to literacy, actual achievement levels, attitudes, home background, and literacy practice disconnected from that gendered culture. That is, there appears to be a subtle but important distinction between perception and reality in relation to the achievement of literacy.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
School of Cognition, Language and Special Education
Item Access Status