Closing the Literacy Gap for Boys

Evidence from national data and recent research consistently shows that boys are at significant risk of underachievement in reading and writing.

The National Literacy Trust provides teachers and school leaders with practical ideas for building pupils’ literacy skills and strategies for improving literacy across the whole school, with a particular focus on boys’ literacy.

Improving Boys' Literacy

The gender gap in attainment is persistent. With a new Ofsted framework which continues to examine “how well gaps are narrowing between the performance of different groups of pupils in the school and compared to all pupils nationally”, the question of how schools are addressing the needs of boys and closing that gap continues to be a focus both on the ground in school and for researchers and policy-makers alike.

The National Literacy Trust has examined this issue in depth, and continues to report on the gender differences in, for example, attitudes to reading. We research the issue through, for example, our annual literacy survey which found in 2013/14 that the image of writing as an acceptable activity continues to be a particular issue for older boys. Only 17.1% of boys in KS4 agree with the statement that “writing is cool” compared with 37.7% of boys in KS2.

Addressing the Gender Gap in Schools

Our proven intervention for 8-13 year-old is the Premier League Reading Stars programme. This ten-week series of ‘training’ sessions in schools has been shown to have a significant impact on boys’ attainment. Read our latest evaluation report here which shows that the PLRS programme has a very positive impact on children’s attitudes towards reading, their reading behaviours and their reading skills.

To support schools in closing this gender gap, we have assembled a range of information and resources for our network members. This theme explored the common ingredients of success with boys and literacy and shared practice and expertise from schools and professionals who have managed successfully to address the so-called gender agenda. For example, network members can access:

  • An introduction to the policy and research context behind our boys and literacy theme by network adviser Judy Clark
  • The best titles to hook in your reluctant male readers, as recommended by National Literacy Trust Network members
  • A tool designed to help practitioners reflect on their boys' literacy strategies and teaching techniques
  • A research summary: a map * which draws together a wide array of research to highlight strategies that have been shown to be most successful in developing boys' learning. 

Professional Development Training for Literacy Leaders

Specific pupil interventions support particular groups, but research shows that “Pedagogies which appeal to and engage boys are equally girl-friendly. They characterise quality teaching” (Raising Boys’ Achievement Project, University of Cambridge Faculty of Education).

The National literacy Trust has developed an innovative programme of professional development training for literacy leaders in primary schools. This provides opportunities for teachers to engage with research and test new strategies for closing the gender gap. These three day programmes stretch over at least a term and have the potential to create sustainable improvement in pupil outcomes. They have been built around what we know works in CPD and involve collaborative learning relevant to local pupil and school priorities.

During this theme we explored the common ingredients of success with boys and literacy and shared practice and expertise from those schools and professionals who have managed to address the so-called gender agenda.

The National Literacy Trust

The National Literacy Trust is a national charity dedicated to raising literacy levels in the UK. 

"We work to improve the reading, writing, speaking and listening skills in the UK's most disadvantaged communities, where up to 40 per cent of people have literacy problems. Our research and analysis make us the leading authority on literacy and drive our interventions. Because low literacy is intergenerational, we focus our work on families, young people and children."

The National Literacy Trust is a registered charity, no. 1116260, and a company limited by guarantee, no. 5836486, registered in England and Wales, and a registered charity in Scotland, no. SC042944.
Registered address: 68 South Lambeth Road, London SW8 1RL. Tel: 020 7587 1842.

Download a Free eBook

Free EBook Literacy Teaching Primary Classroom

Are you looking for ideas and activities to improve literacy in your primary classroom?

Developing and improving literacy for primary-aged pupils is a key focus for many schools; both new and experienced teachers continue to look for new ideas or tips to support their literacy teaching practice. Drawing from the experience of key authors Pie Corbett, Julia Strong, Alison Wilcox, Tony Martin, Chira Lovat and Glynis Purnell, this free e-book brings you ideas and activities for teaching grammar, poetry, speaking, listening and drama, and creative writing in the primary classroom.

Download your free copy here

20% Discount Offer

Receive a 20% discount on the related titles below or any print book in our Focus on Literacy online collection, when purchased via our website using discount code BLT15.

View our Focus on Literacy collection of titles here

Related Titles

  • Supporting Boys' Writing in the Early Years

    Becoming a writer in leaps and bounds, 1st Edition

    By Julie Cigman

    Julie Cigman uses a vast range of personal vignettes to explain best practice when encouraging boys to write. The theory is brought to life with these recollections, making this a very informative and enjoyable book to read. The ideas for working together with boys are beautifully simple and are…

    Paperback – 2014-10-29

  • The Really Useful Literacy Book

    Linking theory and practice in the primary classroom, 3rd Edition

    By Tony Martin, Chira Lovat, Glynis Purnell

    Now in its third edition, The Really Useful Literacy Book is the definitive guide to the high quality teaching of literacy in your primary classroom. Written specifically for primary school teachers and student trainee teachers, this book offers inventive ideas for the classroom together with an…

    Paperback – 2012-06-14
    The Really Useful

  • Monsters Under the Bed

    Critically investigating early years writing, 1st Edition

    By Andrew Melrose

    Monsters Under the Bed is an essential text focussing on critical and contemporary issues surrounding writing for ‘early years’ children. Containing a critically creative and a creatively critical investigation of the cult and culture of the child and childhood in fiction and non-fictional writing,…

    Paperback – 2012-01-16

  • Using Comic Art to Improve Speaking, Reading and Writing

    1st Edition

    By Steve Bowkett

    Using Comic Art to Improve Speaking, Reading and Writing uses children’s interest in pictures, comics and graphic novels as a way of developing their creative writing abilities, reading skills and oracy. The book’s underpinning strategy is the use of comic art images as a visual analogue to help…

    Paperback – 2011-12-16

  • Adventure Stories for Reading, Learning and Literacy

    Cross-Curricular Resources for the Primary School, 1st Edition

    By Mal Leicester, Roger Twelvetrees

    Adventure Stories for Reading, Learning and Literacy takes a unique approach to cross-curricular teaching in the primary classroom. Providing eight original adventure stories, the authors build up a suite of resources and activities for teachers to use in the classroom, providing cross curricular…

    Paperback – 2010-06-24

  • Literacy in Action: Football

    24 Flexible Lessons for Ages 9-11, 1st Edition

    By Heather Butler

    Get ready for kick off and prepare to meet all of your literacy goals with Literacy in Action: Football. All year 5 and particularly year 6 teachers know about the pressure to help children deliver levels of achievement laid down by higher authorities than themselves. Many of the reluctant writers…

    Paperback – 2010-05-21

Working in partnership with the National Literacy Trust

Routledge is pleased to be working in partnership with the National Literacy Trust to help transform literacy in schools. Find out more.

Focus on Literacy: Books for Inspirational Teachers

Are you looking for some inspiration? Our Focus on Literacy Collection contains details of our latest practical and professional books to support literacy teaching in schools. Additionally, members of the National Literacy Trust Network can enjoy a 20% discount on Routledge books; click here for more information. 

Focus on Literacy Collection