7. Gender on the Agenda
Increasingly, we’re seeing evidence that boys’ and girls’ brains work differently, and that they learn in different ways. Schools where boys thrive are those where hands-on learning is part of the agenda; where time at desks is punctuated by more physical activity; where there is regular feedback and guidance offered; where boys’ improvement is praised, ‘across the board’ if possible, rather than within subjects; where there is chance to do out-of-school activities; where special attention is given to the learning styles that suit boys (for example, visual and kinaesthetic styles) - and where there is a bit of fun thrown in! If school librarians talk the same language as teachers, they will be part of this whole-school process, and the library will be embedded in any boys’ achievement programme.
Girls are often more collaborative learners, and have stronger friendship groups. They may respond more to working in groups, and to learning that involves pooling ideas, and writing. They’re also likely to respond well to discussions about books, and to exploring the way in which stories affect them, and link with their own experience.
It’s not what’s on the menu that matters though; it’s also what’s missing. Whilst both boys and girls will excel if ‘boy-friendly’ attributes are present, in their absence, boys will disengage and become disruptive much more often than girls, who evolve ways to cope with more passive learning.
Look at your library activities with these factors in mind. Which activities are most suited to boys, or to girls? Which activities give both genders and equal footing? For example:
- Most good ideas to get Key Stage 3 boys or girls reading are good ideas for all young people, and each is more likely to read if the whole school community are readers.
- You can gain much, in ‘keeping the connections’. How about a list by boys of books they think girls would like, and vice versa? Keen readers like to compete, to see who reads most and tops the reader charts.
- Do work on ‘how we choose books’ (title, author’s name, cover design, blurb, first paragraph, etc). Boys often comment that they don’t know what to choose, and this will strengthen their confidence. Carel Press’s Reading Game may help here, and there can be much useful discussion about ’What makes a boy book/girl book?’.