The Consequential Effects of Misinterpretations and Misrepresentations on Boys’ and Girls’ Reading Achievement and Motivation

  • Linda M. PhillipsEmail author
  • Karen Loerke
  • Denyse V. Hayward
Part of the Literacy Studies book series (LITS, volume 15)


In this chapter, we review studies on boys’ and girls’ reading achievement in North America for a period covering 13 decades. On the basis of over 3000 publications identified, only 78 were judged to be evidence-based for critical appraisal and interpretation. We lay out the background elements that have stoked a widespread rhetoric on gender differences and signal research on reading achievement and motivation for theoretical and empirical explanation. We next present the conceptual organization of the evolving set of facts on reading achievement into four periods that coincide with significant shifts in reading theories and practices including the major international and national assessments. Given the facts, we question whether boys’ underachievement in reading is a genuine or meretricious crisis. The current dropout rate is as high as 50% in some cities in North America with culturally diverse and immigrant populations disproportionately represented; we thus turned to the research on reading achievement and motivation to inform our understanding. Underachievement brought about by low academic motivation is a significant contributor to school dropout and reading competence is affected by factors such as motivation, amount read, and reading comprehension. However, the core dimensions of intrinsic motivation explain a fundamental part of the story of reading achievement but other demographic and affective factors are instrumental. We conclude with the exception of low achieving boys from low socioeconomic and visible minorities, the issue of boys’ and girls’ reading achievement must be tempered and presented factually. There is an overstated lack of achievement for boys and an understated lack of achievement for girls.


Differential reading achievement Evidence Misconceptions Intrinsic motivation 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Linda M. Phillips
    • 1
    Email author
  • Karen Loerke
    • 2
  • Denyse V. Hayward
    • 3
  1. 1.Canadian Centre for Research on LiteracyUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Department of Elementary EducationUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  3. 3.Department of Educational PsychologyUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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