Are girls really better at reading than boys?
A perception persists that girls could read better than boys. The gap is apparent amongst the 10 year olds measured in PIRLS, and it is even wider in the group of 15 year olds who take part in PISA.
The reading tests measure whether the pupils can extract information from the text, whether they can draw simple conclusions, interpret and compare information, and assess language, content and literary devices in the text. And regardless of which of these aspects is being measured, girls perform best.
A new study though is calling this notion into question. Researchers from the University of Stavanger have looked into this belief as well as researched on studies made by PIRLS and PISA.
The study has shown that this gender gap in reading comprehension becomes lesser as people mature. In people ages 16-24 years old, this gap is less or else disappears.
This has been the result that the study of Oddny Judith Solheim and Kjersti Lundetrae from the University of Stavanger have found.
The researchers have focused on how the tests themselves have been made. A comparison has been made in the PIRLS, PISA and PIAAC tests. Solheim has said that the tests could have been made that favor girls more than boys. In PIAAC tests aimed for adults, the difference has largely lessened or else the gap almost completely closed.
Some researchers claim that girls are subject to different requirements and expectations than boys, and that this could explain why girls appear to be better at reading. However, if this is the case, it cannot fully explain the differences. And we still do not have the answer to why this difference seems to disappear when the pupils leave secondary school and move into adult life.
One possible explanation is that PIRLS and PISA tests have more continuous texts. Such texts might contain descriptive or narrative words, which highly favor girls more. Boys are more geared towards non-continuous text though such as forms and advertisements.
There is a need to create better reading comprehension tests that would actually show the reading skills in both genders.