Boys, masculinities and reading outcomes: Which boys are failing and why we still need to talk about 'the boys'

Year: 2017

Author: Scholes, Laura

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper reports on the first phase of a three year study aimed at challenging masculinities associated with primary school boys' failure at reading. Addressing a gap in our understanding about Year 3 - Year 5 boys' under-achievement in reading the study explores which boys are experiencing difficulties with reading and how this might be addressed in the classroom. The project aligns with recognition of literacy as a social practice and an understanding that literacy is acquired within particular social, cultural and political contexts. Specifically, how boys' beliefs about, and engagement with reading, are mediated by socio-economic background, ethnicity and geographical location are the focus. The first phase of the study involved a paper based survey that asked Year 3 students to indicate on a Likert scale their; (a) enjoyment of a range of activities including reading - enjoyment; (b) self-perception of reading skills and reading frequency - self-perception; and (c) beliefs about masculinities and reading and other activities - beliefs. The socio-economic background of the school community, student ethnicity and students' reading levels were also collected. Research sites included primary schools in South East Queensland situated in a range of socio-economic and culturally diverse communities. In this paper the initial analysis of the survey data collected from Year 3 students is presented. Based on factor analysis, K-means cluster analysis determined groups of participants who present in a similar manner based on enjoyment, self-perceptions, and beliefs about reading. Gender, ethnicity, socio-economic background and reading scores were also be used to explore cluster grouping of students. The paper considers differences in groups of students' responses and relationships between reading outcomes, socio-economic background, ethnicity and geographical location. Findings highlight how masculinities that include a reluctance to read impact on engagement, practice and the cumulative influence that exposure to print has on reading outcomes. Discussions consider how problematic anti-reading performances of masculinity can significantly impact on some boys' attitudes to reading and influence their engagement in reading endeavours. Boys' underachievement in reading however is often generalized and so is not representative of particular groups of boys. This paper aims to highlight differences in boys' survey responses with an understanding of the nuances associated with socio-economic background, ethnicity, and location. This first phase data will then inform reasoning based reading pedagogies that specifically challenge gender stereotypes and that engage boys in reading.