Gender Differences In Reading Ability And Attitudes

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Attitude has been identified as an important factor in context to reading. Consistent findings suggest that girls are most likely to take interest in reading as compared to their male counterparts. This gap is wider and it increases with age. Logan and Johnston (2009) assert that "There is evidence that for both boys and girls, attitudes to reading become more negative as children get older (Kush & Watkins, 1996; McKenna et al., 1995; Sainsbury & Schagen, 2004), although girls' attitudes have been found to be more stable across time (Kush & Watkins, 1996)"(p.200). This indicates that there is a disparity is found between the two genders in terms of reading ability and attitudes. The aim of this paper is review existing literature on gender differences in reading ability and attitudes in the lights of broad and diverse academic resources.

Overview

Attitude is considered to be an essential factor, which is responsible for developing the reading skills of the child(Howie, 2008). Furthermore, it influences their participation in reading activities in class room, selection of the topic for reading and contributes towards their ongoing development. In terms of reading, attitude is considered to be the condition of the human mind, which allows the reader to enjoy reading or make it less probable, depending on the emotions and feelings(Howie, 2008). In simple terms, attitude is considered to be a complete set of emotions and feelings, which are related to learning. These feelings influence the reader to either love reading or to avoid it completely. From this definition, it is seen that positive attitude plays an important role in determining the reading skills of the child.

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Logan and Johnston assert that "positive attitudes to reading have consistently been found to be associated with higher reading achievement and more frequent reading. In addition, the development of a positive attitude to reading has been associated with sustained reading throughout the lifespan" (p.200). Logan and Johnston (2009) concentrated on studying the gender differences in terms of reading ability and attitudes. From their research, it was found out that female students were better readers as compared to their male counterparts. Furthermore, they exhibited more positive attitude towards reading and school as compared to boys. The findings from their research showed that the differences found between the two genders were significant but relatively small.

Twist et.al (2004) conducted a study in order to study the attitudes towards reading in England. For this purpose, they concentrated on analyzing the results of Progress in International Literacy Study 2001, which were published in the year 2003. Furthermore, they concentrated on conducting a survey in order to gather information from children, teachers, their parents and headmasters. The results of the study indicated that students had poor attitudes towards reading as compared to other countries. "England has the second highest proportion of pupils (13% against an international average of 6%) who expressed negative attitudes to reading. This comprises 18% of boys in the sample and 8% of girls. In the case of boys, just The Netherlands (23%) and the United States (19%) have a greater proportion in this 'low' category. Scotland comes close behind England with 17%. With respect to girls, the United States and England have jointly the greatest proportion of pupils expressing negative attitudes to reading, with Hungary, The Netherlands and Scotland in the next group (6%)"(Twist et.al, 2004, p. 398). The research conducted by Twist el.al suggests that opposite to that of other studies related to gender differences. In the same year, Sainsbury and Schagen conducted a study in order to investigate the attitudes of reading of nine and ten year old students. The results of their study indicated that "attitudes were found to be significantly more positive than boys with higher percentages agreeing with "I like reading stories""( Sainsbury and Schagen, 2004, p.378) .

Factors Influencing Attitudes to Reading

From research, it is evident that regularity of reading, student attitude and perception towards their school, their competency beliefs and perspectives and academic support from colleagues and teachers play an important role in reading ability and attitude towards reading. Consistent findings in literature indicate that students having positive attitudes are most likely to have strong reading abilities as compared to students having negative attitudes (Logan and Johnston, 2009). The attitude towards school has also been identified as a primary factor, which is most likely to influence reading ability. Logan and Johnston (2009) quote Alloway & Gilbert, 1997; Daniels, Creese, Hey, Leonard & Smith, 2001 and assert that " The ability to read opens a gateway to success in many other areas of school, as most school subjects rely to varying degrees on reading ability. Indeed, once children have mastered this fundamental skill, they will accomplish many tasks more easily, which may in turn lead to more enjoyment. It is often speculated that girls have a more positive attitude to school due to the nature of the school environment, and that the rules and restrictions imposed in schools are unfavorable to boys" (p. 201). Other factors which have identified include competency beliefs and support from academic networks.

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Logan and Johnston (2009) concentrated on studying the gender differences in terms of reading ability. For this purpose, they gathered a sample of two hundred thirty two children of ten years, out of which, one hundred seventeen participants were males. They were required to take a reading comprehension test and had to answer a questionnaire, which concentrated on four main areas. These areas included the regularity of reading, student attitude and perception towards their school, their competency beliefs and perspectives and academic support from colleagues and teachers. From the study, it was found out that girls had a positive attitude towards reading as compared to boys in terms of reading and school. The differences in gender in terms of reading ability were smaller as compared to the regularity of reading and attitudes. The study concentrated on linking the reading ability of both genders in terms of frequency and competency perspective. Overall Johnston and Logan (2009) concluded that the gender difference occurred mainly in the link found between the four factors identified. Existing literature did not study the relationship between these four factors.

Sainsbury and Schagen (2004) identified that the decline in enjoyment in reading from 1998 to 2003 is because of the experiences of students related to NLS, even though no particular study supports this link. They further quote Hanke 2000 and assert that "NLS emphasis on high quality texts, but also to question the reliance on fast-paced and closed tasks rather than a more open-ended empathetic response to the text" (Sainsbury and Schagen, 2004, p. 385). Furthermore, similar observations had been reported by Fisher (2002) research (Sainsbury and Schagen, 2004, p. 385). Social and technological factors have been identified, which have contributed towards a decline in reading. Although their study did not consider the reading on computer screens, it was commented that the positive attitudes towards reading have declined substantially in the last five years.

Another study was conducted in the year 2008 by Twist and Sainsbury in order to investigate the gender gap in the national reading tests. For this purpose, a sample of 1423 students was taken from sixty two different primary schools. The study concentrated on analyzing the enjoyment level of reading among students and their performance were analyzed individually as well as collectively. In the pretests, "students were asked whether they enjoyed reading each of the four texts that made up the Rain and Shine reading booklet" (Twist and Sainsbury, 2008). The findings indicated that extended narrative extract was popular among girls as compared to boys. Although both girls and boys did not enjoy poems, the level of enjoyment was found to be higher in girls. On the other hand, non-fiction was found out to be more popular among boys as compared to girls, even though the difference was not that high. From their study, Twist and Sainsbury (2008) concluded that "Boys were more likely to omit items than girls, but this alone does not account for girls' better performance. Girls did well, relative to boys, on the items that required a longer written response. They also did better on the items based on the literary elements of the test. Boys' strengths were shown in their responses to the non-literary component although on this part, girls still scored more highly" (p.296).

Tuula Merisuo-Storm conducted a study in order to investigate the reading patterns of girls and boys. For this purpose, a sample of 145 fourth grade students were collected, which comprised of 67 boys and 78 girls. The study concentrated on exploring the reading attitudes of the students and to investigate the type of texts the students selected to read and write. Furthermore, the study concentrated on determining which material the students did not like and whether girls and boys showed interests in different subjects in context to reading. The results of the study indicated that the main factor on which reading is based is interest. If the student is not interested in the text, he or she will not read. Furthermore, Merisuo-Storm assert that students avoid reading as they find it embarrassing and are scared of it and therefore, they tend to avoid it as they do not want to make fool of themselves in front of their peers or teachers. Furthermore, boys are most likely to suffer more as compared to girls. Furthermore, it is concluded that teachers should know the interests of his or her students in order to develop and improve their reading and writing skills.

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Conclusion

In order to develop reading ability and skills, it is essential that students have positive attitude towards. Existing literature supports the fact that gender difference prevails in terms of reading ability and attitude and it increases with age. Students having negative reading attitude, would continue to neglect reading and vice versa. Studies suggest that girls are most likely to take interest in reading as compared to boys. Attitude is the main foundation for developing reading skills among students. Several studies have support the idea that girls are better readers as compared to boys. Wide ranging factors have been identified, which contribute towards gender differences in terms of reading. These factors include regularity of reading, student attitude and perception towards their school, their competency beliefs and perspectives and academic support from colleagues and teachers play an important role in reading ability and attitude towards reading.

Consistent findings in literature indicate that students having positive attitudes are most likely to have strong reading abilities as compared to students having negative attitudes. Other factors include Social and technological factors have been identified, which have contributed towards a decline in reading. Studies also suggest that boys are more interested in non-literary material. students avoid reading as they find it embarrassing and are scared of it and therefore, they tend to avoid it as they do not want to make fool of themselves in front of their peers or teachers. Furthermore, boys are most likely to suffer more as compared to girls. Furthermore, it is concluded that teachers should know the interests of his or her students in order to develop and improve their reading and writing skills.