Gender Differences in Learning Require Careful Attention

Gender differences in learning, particularly in the early childhood years, require careful attention because some boys come to reading later than girls. Brain researchers say it has to do with the vestibular system.

Since boys’ vestibular systems mature slowly, they have more problems with running, skipping, hopping, and jumping than do girls of a similar age. The link between physical coordination and reading is real, and most girls are ready to read before their male counterparts.

So it is critical for boys and reading that they be provided lots of opportunities to develop coordination with activities like skipping, jumping rope, and walking on a balance beam.

Other Gender Differences and How You Can Help

Many little boys don’t hear with articulation, especially the higher frequencies.

Boys often have difficulty hearing clearly. Many studies report that this maturational condition continues until between the ages of seven or in some cases as late as nine years old.

This may help explain why, when asked by his female teacher, “Did you hear me say to stop running?” – some little boys probably didn't! Women’s voices are typically pitched higher than those of men, and when many of us “raise our voices” to be heard, the pitch rises as well.

Little boys often stay in trouble for not being able to hear, sometimes complicated further by surges of testosterone. This is a very real example of gender differences in learning.

To help little boys hear you, establish eye contact – get them to look at you – and speak in a lower voice. It may also be necessary to touch the shoulder or arm to get their attention before speaking.

Boys are dizzy and have difficulty walking straight without holding on to something.

The vestibular system allows us to know where our bodies are in space. Since this system is slow to mature in boys, it makes sense that they may have difficulty walking without tipping over. If you’ve ever watched preschool and kindergarten children trying to walk in a line, you know how difficult it is for them, especially the boys.

Often their hands are on the walls in an attempt to steady themselves, and when all else fails, they grab onto someone else. That usually spells trouble with the admonition, “Keep your hands to yourself.”

So for the sake of little boys everywhere, it may be a good idea to ease up on the rule of walking in those absolutely straight lines and allow boys to touch the wall when walking down a hallway.

It’s hard for boys to move their eyes from left to right.

Another gender difference for boys reading is that it is very difficult for them to move their eyes across the midline in text. Often they will reach the middle of a line, stop, then go back to the beginning of the line and read faster, trying to power their way over the midline.

Coordination activities and games which cross the midline can absolutely make the difference between his becoming a reader or a non-reader. And research shows that this can change the course of his life because of the male prison population, 90% are unable to read a paragraph of text for meaning.

"Research suggests that not being able to read competently can change the course of a child's life. Whether it is a case of cause and effect or not, over 90% of the populations of our prisons are unable to read a paragraph with understanding or meaning."

Dr. Fritz Mengert

Go to Brain Exercises and Coordination from Gender Differences in Learning

Go to Physical Coordination and Reading from Gender Differences in Learning

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Coordination Exercises Important to Reading


Teaching children to skip may help their reading.