Thrive in 2025: Help Your Son Succeed in School

Boys need more time to learn how to read.

Help Your Son Succeed in School

Thayer Allyson Gowdy

Odds are, you were taught how to read in first grade. Today, though, children are typically expected to master that skill by the end of kindergarten. While the literacy standards have changed, the nature of kids hasn't, and the push toward early reading seems to be impeding boys more than girls. Why? The parts of the brain that process words develop more slowly in boys than in girls. A large study at Virginia Tech University, in Blacksburg, found that a typical 5-year-old boy's language area is comparable to that of an average 3?-year-old girl. (By contrast, the brain region tied to math and geometry matures a bit earlier in boys than it does in girls.)

Pushing boys to read before they're biologically ready can do them more harm than good. Girls often become the classroom stars in the early years, whereas many boys struggle to keep up and become frustrated. "The acceleration of the early-elementary curriculum has soured a lot of young boys on school," Dr. Sax says. "By age 6 or 7, many of them have decided that it's a waste of time."

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