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Female tutors best for boys' reading: study

First graders sit inside a classroom on the first day of school in Manila June 4, 2007. The reading skills of young male students may improve more when boys are tutored by women, a Canadian study shows, contradicting some school policies to hire male teachers to improve boys' literacy. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - The reading skills of young male students may improve more when boys are tutored by women, a Canadian study shows, contradicting some school policies to hire male teachers to improve boys’ literacy.

Herb Katz, an education professor at the University of Alberta, took 175 boys in the third and fourth grades, identified as struggling readers, and paired them with a research assistant who worked on their reading skills for 30 minutes a week over 10 weeks.

On average, the boys paired with female tutors felt better about their reading skills after the 10 weeks than those who were coached by a male research assistant, the study found.

Katz said the study, published in the U.S. journal Sex Roles, may prompt educational policy-makers in countries such as Australia and Britain to rethink directives that call for more male teachers to be hired to provide role models for boys whose reading skills lag their peers.

“It tells us that the way governments respond with policy is maybe a little too quick and a little too simple,” Katz said.

Boys and girls enter kindergarten with similar reading skills, Katz said, but by the end of the third grade, boys have lower reading scores than girls. The reasons behind that difference are not entirely clear.

“I don’t know that (reading skills) fade so much as teachers may not recognize what boys are doing,” he said. “We don’t really know a lot about boys, even in those early years.”

The boys recruited for the study attended 12 schools in the Prairie city of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Most were from inner-city neighborhoods. About a third were aboriginal Canadians and 55 percent came from ethnic minority groups.

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