(Jan. 31, 2022)
Amaree Burr-Comer didn’t always pay attention to the books he was reading.
“I would just read it to be done,” the McMullen-Booth Elementary School fifth grader recalled.
That was before he got involved in the Pinellas County school district’s Boys Read Book Battle two years ago. Created as part of a larger strategy to overcome a literacy achievement gender gap, the battle exposes boys to new materials and teaches them in a competitive environment how to read for meaning and retention.
Amaree, who’s on the team again this year, along with his younger brother and three other schoolmates, said the activity changed his entire approach — even with the materials he and his friends called the “boring learning books.”
“When I started Battle of the Books I got the gist of going back in the books, memorizing the books, reading the books very carefully,” he said. “It does carry on.”
Amaree’s journey is the outcome that educators in Pinellas and across Florida are aiming for as they place added attention on the learning disparities between boys and girls when it comes to reading.
“The data don’t lie,” said Stacy Baier, chief executive officer of the Pinellas Education Foundation, which has highlighted the gap and underwritten much of the effort to address it. “We have to do something about this.”
State data show that third-grade boys underperformed girls on 2018-19 statewide language arts exams by 4 points. That same year, 10th-grade boys lagged behind girls in proficiency by 11 points. The district had similar scores.