Why we need to focus more on boys’ early language skills
Boys should get more help to develop good language skills by the time they start school, according to findings from Child of the New Century (CNC).
Only half of the boys in your generation reached the expected level in language and communication by age 5, compared to two thirds of girls.
Early language skills are a stepping stone to learning to read. That’s why Save the Children asked researchers from the University of Bristol to carry out this study as part of their Read on. Get on. campaign to get all children reading well by age 11.
The authors used information from more than 6,000 CNC study members from across the UK. They found that the gap between boys and girls narrowed over the course of primary school. By the time you reached age 11, around 1 in 8 boys were struggling with reading, compared to around 1 in 12 girls. Boys had not quite caught up to girls by this age mostly because the gap was so wide at age 5.
The researchers explained that having good early language ability is just as important for boys as girls, so boys should get equal support to develop the skills they need.
There are things that parents can do to help. Children whose parents read to them and take them to the library at age 3 are more likely to have good language skills at age 5. Although boys and girls in your generation were just as likely to take part in these activities, more girls than boys spent time doing other things that can help develop language and communication, such as singing songs, making up nursery rhymes, drawing, painting and learning letters in their early years.
But the researchers stressed that the education system also has a very important role to play, and that investment in high-quality teaching in the early years will help ensure that both boys and girls have access to rich learning environments in their first few years of life.