Kiwi men start out behind the eight ball when it comes to reading, often leading to a poor start for their children’s literacy.
Auckland Community Education Trust (COMET) said Father’s Day and Tuesday’s International Literacy Day were opportunities to call for an increased focus on literacy for boys and men across the country.
COMET Auckland manager for literacy and family learning Alison Sutton said men fell behind their female counterparts from an early age, causing troubles in later life including having a negative impact on their children’s reading.
Sutton said 81 per cent of Auckland primary school-aged girls were reading at or above the standard level for their age but only 72.6 per cent of boys were reading at the same level.
Those figures were even lower for the four South Auckland areas captured by Auckland Council’s The Southern Initiative programme, with just 58.9 per cent of boys reading at or above the standard for their age.
“Those figures are really worrying, because the gaps in literacy between girls and boys widen as young people go through their education journey,” Sutton said.
These issues manifested as a “startling” trend in the workplace, where 50 per cent of all workers struggled with the basic literacy needed to do their job, she said, adding that men faced the biggest problems when it came to literacy at work.
Sutton said reading and the associated literacy skills impacted on education, employment prospects, the ability to be informed citizens, relationships, creativity, insight, and parenting.
“We need to build the literacy levels of parents and caregivers so that our young people can get the best start in school, and adults can thrive in their work.”
Attention was often given to improving mums’ literacy as they typically spent more time with their children.
However, dads had an equally important role to play in their children’s literacy and oracy.
Reading for pleasure was seen as more of a female activity but New Zealanders needed to change their conversations and expectations about boys and men being readers, Sutton said.
“Dads should encourage their sons to be readers, and this is most effective when Dad himself is also a reader and role model.”
COMET was trying to encourage fathers and father-figures to increase the amount of time they spent talking, reading and singing with their kids.
Some of the country’s large employers, like The Warehouse, offered workplace literacy courses.
Sutton said boys, men and dads should try and read an interesting range of material, including illustrated novels, comic strips, manga, poetry, and even fictional stories linked to a popular TV series or movies.
Figures from the latest census show more than 100,000 New Zealand parents left school without any qualification.
Out of 893,706 parents with children between the ages of 0 and 17 at the time of the 2013 census, 123,120 or 13.8 per cent did not have any formal academic qualification.
Parents from the West Coast had the highest rate of no qualifications at 21 per cent, followed by Gisborne on 19.3 per cent.
Wellington parents were the most likely to have gained a qualification, with 99,132 out of 10,239 parents gaining some kind of formal academic qualification.
Meanwhile, 11.8 per cent of Auckland parents left school or university with a qualification and 13 per cent of parents living in Canterbury at the time of the census.