Something which should never happen – especially given the difficulties boys are now experiencing in literacy skills – has happened to a New York elementary school student. Meet the nine-year-old boy who was criticized by his librarian for reading too much.
Literacy for boys is crucial. As Dr. Thomas Newkirk informs us in his book Misreading Masculinity (a highly-recommended book about how schools pathologize and marginalize reading and writing that boys enjoy), the Educational Testing Service has documented that the gender gap favoring girls in literacy concepts is six times greater than the gap in math concepts favoring boys. When a student reaches college, reading and writing become the transferable skills that are required in nearly every class in order to achieve either a passing grade, or a grade high enough to maintain many scholarships. Whether you major in history, in science, or English, you are going to need to write a paper. Even many first-year kinesiology classes will require the maintenance of a journal.
In Why Boys Fail, Richard Whitmire asserts that literacy skills are a key issue in educational attainment among male students, an issue which more starkly manifests itself in college, where young men are far less likely to graduate than young women, as you can see:
If anything we should be actively encouraging boys to read, and be willing to experiment with alternative and non-traditional forms of literacy that are better able to engage them. At the very least, we should not be discouraging boys from reading.
According to NBC, nine-year-old Tyler Weaver has read 373 books over five years and is a five-time champion of Hudson Falls’ summer reading contest. Unique among many of his peers for his voracious love of books, he is now being criticized by Marie Gandron, the director of his local library, for reading too much. As HuffPo Parents reports:
“Gandron told the outlet that Tyler ‘hogs’ the contest and that she wants to change the contest rules so that the winner’s name is picked randomly out of a hat. She suggested that Tyler’s ability deters other kids from participating in the contest, because ‘they can’t keep up.’
“When he heard what the director said [about him] he was very upset,” Katie Weaver [the boy’s mother] told the outlet. “He’s never seen being good at reading to be a negative thing. And he shouldn’t! He realized that the director was wrong.”
Marie Gandron should know better. I say should, of course, because – generally speaking – we do not live in a world where the distinctive and pressing educational needs of boys are brought to our attention by our academic institutions, who should be foremost in leading the inquiry and mobilizing to address these issues. Unfortunately, dear reader, we live in a very different world.
Gandron’s comments about assigning winners at random also warrant scrutiny. While it is important to teach cooperation and to honor the efforts of all involved, it is also important to teach the next generation how to win and lose with dignity and grace, and to respect the hard work and honest achievements of others.
According to reporters, Tyler Weaver told them that he may no longer participate in the contest:
Tyler Weaver should not be criticized for his achievements; on the contrary, he should be praised. And Gandron – given the many issues our boys face in education today – should reconsider her comments, and apologize.