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Boy oh boy!

posted Apr 5, 2010, 1:07 PM by Dan Dunbar
Surprise! Surprise! I have been reading again. This time the publication that caught my attention was an article about why boys are having more difficulty in school these days. It used to be that all the gender related education articles were about girls lagging behind in math and science and how to help girls achieve educational equity in schools. Well, the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction, and now the boys are the ones people are worrying about in school. Girls are doing very well in school, with higher G.P.A.'s in high school, higher standardized test scores, and more high school diplomas and college degrees than boys. The reason why? The article I read said that our world has become a much more verbal place to live in, meaning that reading and writing skills are far more important in today's world than they used to be, and boys have a harder time mastering literacy skills.

This is another reason why I am glad that we are trying to improve the teaching of literacy skills, like reading, writing, and oral communication at GGCA. This is why I encourage guys to read and write and to take advantage of the opportunities they have in school to master those skills. It is why I encourage teachers to learn more about teaching reading and writing. It is why I want parents to encourage reading and writing and to model it in their homes. A guy needs to see his dad reading. The same holds true for moms and girls. If all mom and dad do is stare at television, video games, or the computer when they get home, their children are going to learn that literacy skills have no place outside of school, and that is going to hurt them when they want a good job when they grow up. We need to teach by example.

One research project said that fifth grade students who struggle with reading read about 60,000 words per year compared to average fifth graders who read 800,000 words per year. That is a huge difference! How do children become good readers? How do any of us become good at any skill? Practice. Coaching and practice. Parents, teachers, friends, siblings - we all can be coaches, encouragers, people who sit and read with children and help them learn how to pronounce words, notice punctuation, develop fluency, learn word meanings, and understand what they are reading. Taking time to read with a child is an act of love and a valuable investment in a child's future. Boys especially need someone they love and respect to make time for them and coach them to develop their reading skills. Writing skills flow out of reading skills, so working on the one skill yields multiple benefits.

I will be attending the annual conference of the International Reading Association in Chicago at the end of this month, and I hope to learn more about how to improve literacy education in our school. Pray for me as I try to lead in this initiative. I truly desire what is best for our children and to offer our families the best quality education possible. Pray for our teachers too, because it may require some adjustment on their part as we proceed with any new curriculum and teaching initiatives. I am not looking for trendy, faddish ideas that we will look back upon years from now in regret. No, I am looking for curriculum and pedagogy based upon sound principles and best practices that benefit us all.

I believe that God calls us to excellence and to do whatever He has called us to do with all our might. I am not content to sit in my office and "mind the store," so to speak. I feel it is my responsibility to look at what we do here in school and discover if we can do it better, to make it easier for our children develop in grace and become all that God has made them to be. If I can find a way to engage boys more in learning, I will be one happy principal. Let's keep all of our students - girls as well as boys - lifted up in daily prayer, so that they will make an impact on our world both now in in the years to come.