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How Negative Stereotypes About Boys Affect Their Academics And Health

Photo Courtesy of Simon & Schuster

The negative stereotypes that boys face have a damaging effect on both their bodies and minds. Emma Brown, investigative reporter at The Washington Post, exposes these and more in her book "To Raise a Boy," available now from Simon & Schuster (a ViacomCBS Company).

"To Raise a Boy" is a searing investigation into how we teach boys to be men—and how we can do better. In this special selection from the book, Brown underscores why it's vital to encourage healthy relationships to academics for boys and dismantle negative stereotypes about them and their academic skills.

At stake in this debate is so much more than the toys boys play with. The stereotypes and pressures that boys face threaten their physical and mental health, their ability to navigate their inner lives and interpersonal relationships, and even their academic success.

Consider how boys are doing in school. The average boy lags behind the average girl in reading. Boys are more likely to drop out of high school and less likely to enroll in college. Journalists and activists have been calling attention to this "boy crisis" in education for two decades, attributing it to teaching styles ill-suited to boys and more generally to the assumption, among feminists and educators, that the students most in need of attention and help are girls.

But research suggests that boys are limited in part by the commonly held belief that girls are better than boys at reading. In classrooms, where many children firmly believe that stereotype, boys have less confidence in their own reading skills, less motivation to read, and weaker reading skills, according to a longitudinal study that tracked more than fifteen hundred students as they moved from the fifth to sixth grades. A stereotype about boys in this case became a prophecy.

The results of that study show that to help our sons succeed, we have to wage a war on the assumption that boys are naturally less skilled at reading. While we are at it, let's take on and destroy the rest of the negative assumptions that people carry around about boys: they're violent, dirty, impolite, unfeeling, disengaged. These are damaging, destructive generalizations that have a real impact on our sons.

Excerpted from "To Raise a Boy" by Emma Brown. Copyright © 2021 by Emma Brown. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Emma Brown is an investigative reporter at The Washington Post. In her life before journalism, she worked as a wilderness ranger in Wyoming and a middle school math teacher in Alaska. She lives with her husband and two children in Washington, DC.

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