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B OYS A resource guide for parents, educators and coaches of boys


Equipping parents, educators, coaches, and mentors with resources to help boys grow and learn successfully The National Center for the Development of Boys (the “Center�) is a nonprofit organization that helps parents and professionals positively change the lives of boys. From helping parents, educators, counselors, coaches, and healthcare professionals to better understand what boys need, to facilitating change-programs in schools and communities, the Center develops its own research and collaborates with other research and science-based organizations to help families and institutions meet the challenges our boys face today.


Our boys need us now more than ever

Boys lag behind girls in reading and literacy, state-by-state test scores, and grades.

The gender and achievement gap, especially in disadvantaged schools, has changed in the last thirty years from a girl gap to a boy gap. This is true among both Caucasian children and children of color. One result is that the majority of high school dropouts are male and colleges and university graduates are now comprised of approximately 60% females, 40% males. This shift began in the 1980s and has increased over the last three decades with no end to the male decline in sight. 5

Boys are disciplined more frequently in schools and less involved in school activities and clubs than girls.


imprisonment rate vs. the rate of girls

* Federal Bureau of Prisons

making school-to-prison pipelines and male disconnect from learning and life-success a matter of profound importance to all males, especially males of color.

Male mental illness rates for all demographic groups are increasing steadily


more likely to commit suicide than young females. * Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

1 in 5

boys on some form of medication

1 in 42

boys on the autism spectrum

* Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Our boys need us now more than ever, but there is good news. Parents, coaches, educators, and community members can make the difference when it comes to raising a strong, mature, responsible, and successful young man.



vs Boys are three to five times more likely to have learning and/or reading disabilities placements in schools. (National Center Assessment of Educational Progress)




44% of boys read for pleasure, compared to 67% of girls.



LOWER THAN GIRLS on standardized measures of reading achievement.

(National Assessment of Educational Progress)

Nearly half of girls said they read for at least 30 minutes each day, compared to less than one-third of boys.

People often misconstrue the difference in reading preferences between boys and girls by claiming “Boys don’t like to read.” Boys read less primarily due to “a lack of engagement.” The results are dramatic. By their senior year in high school, boys have fallen nearly 20 points behind their female peers in reading. The gap is even higher among boys and girls of color. “Literacy Skills for the World of Tomorrow” was developed by UNESCO and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and based on tests involving 4,500 to 10,000 students in each country. 9

TIPS for Parents and Educators



Make sure there are books and magazines all around the house and classroom.

Make sure there are books and reading sources that fit the color of the boy’s skin, his ancestors and country of origin.

Model reading by reading aloud to and with your boys, whether at home or at school.

Let boys read what they want to read, not just what we believe they should read. (Graphic novels, magazines, online assets can absolutely count as “reading”).

• If you think a boy is spending too much time in front of a screen, he most likely is. Leverage screen time with reading so that he spends at least two hours a day reading and processing words in some way, and some of that time is without screens. •

Connect as many lessons as possible, even in math and science, to reading; for instance, have boys read biographies of mathematicians or scientists as part of their assignments. Whenever possible, suggest biographies and other resources that boys of color can especially identify with.

Let boys move around, doodle or listen to music while they read--for some boys, these varied sensorial stimulants can increase enjoyment of reading and motivation to read.


REFERENCE Books for Boys Compiled below is a sampling of engaging books for boys.

The Book with No Pictures B.J. Novak Dial Books. 2014

Last Stop on Market Street Matt de la Pena, illustrated by Christian Robinson G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers. 2015

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Jeff Kinney Amulet Books. 2004

Fantastic Mr. Fox Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake Knopf Books for Young Readers. 2002

Al Capone Does My Shirts Gennifer Choldenko. Perfection Learning, 2006. Newbery Honor Book.

We Could Be Brothers Derrick Barnes Scholastic Press. 2010

For a larger selection of great books, visit

REFERENCE Books for Parents and Educators Compiled below are a few books for parents interested in research and approaches in the art of raising boys.

Saving Our Sons: A New Path for Raising Healthy and Resilient Boys Michael Gurian, Gurian Institute Press, 2017

Motivating Black Males to Achieve in School & In Life B. K. “Principal” Kafele, ASC Publishers, 2009

Ensuring the Success of Latino Males in Higher Education

Your Child’s Strengths: A Guide for Parents and Teachers

Victor Saenz, Stylus Publishing, 2016

Jenifer Fox, M.Ed. Penguin, 2009

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Paul Tough, Mariner Books, 2013.

Carol S. Dweck, PhD. Ballantine Books, 2006.

The Blessing of a B Minus: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Resilient Teenagers

The Boy Crisis: Why Our Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It.

Wendy Mogel. Scribner, 2011

Warren Farrell. Ph.D., John Gray Ph.D. Benbella Books, March 2018.


The male brain MALE BRAIN

Male and female brains have their own set of strengths and weaknesses. Traditional education tends to cater to the strengths of the female brain.



“Women outpace men in education in every demographic group and, especially, in the top quartile of income distribution. . . At the highest income levels, women have a 13 percent advantage over their male counterparts.” Jason Koebler, September 21, 2011, US News and World Report

Income and Gender Gap in College Attainment Widens Caralee Adams on December 6, 2011; Education Week “College Bound” blog

College The “gender achievement gap” exists... and it benefits the engaged boy. In U.S. high schools, twice as many males are suspended, and three times as many males expelled, as females. Boys are less likely than girls to take Advanced Placement exams and go to college, and they are far less likely to earn a post-graduate degree. Some of these discrepancies show up all the way back in pre-schools, where boys are four times more likely than girls to get in trouble, get expelled, and fail. National Center for Education Statistics But research indicates that engagement in learning, school, and extracurricular activities—sports, community service, music and arts—increases academic achievement and extends the educational lifespan for boys, where each year of success and advancement equals a significant increase in professional opportunities. The Highly Engaged Classroom, Robert Marzano


Issues faced by boys of color Each issue that boys face today can be even more excruciating for boys of color and their families. For instance:

GRADUATION RATE: 2012-2013 school year estimated

White Males


Latino Males


Black Males



Percentage that scored at or above proficient

12% 17% 38% LITERACY





(Source: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males, 19

TIPS for Parents and Educators


To keep boys engaged in education from the very beginning and all the way through, try these methodologies. As you gradually integrate them into your school or home, be aware of the potential need for specific training and attention to culture and race. •

Make sure preschool teachers and caregivers are trained in the male brain, how it learns, how it behaves, how it loves, nurtures, and shows empathy in some very different ways than the female brain. This training will cut down on the over-disciplining of boys in early childhood environments as well as the early, often unnecessary, and sometimes dangerous medicating of little boys. It will also assist disadvantaged communities in stemming the tide of boys of color moving, by age 6, into school-to-prison pipelines.


Bring training in the male brain to all K-12 schools, both to the educators and parents, so that everyone is aware of the hardwired differences in how boys and girls learn across the curriculum. This will allow school discipline policies to better fit boys, allow boys to learn better in all subjects, improve grades and test scores for both boys and girls, help parents help boys learn well at home, and increase the collaboration between parents and school systems. Combined with race and culture training, this approach can help retain more boys of color specifically in schools.


Alter classrooms to include more physical movement for kids who need it in order to learn well. Squeeze balls in the hands of kids who need them, brain breaks at least once in a classroom hour, increased kinesthetic and spatialmechanical learning, better targeted verbal learning, more use of visual-graphics to aid in writing assignments, less irrelevant homework, and male-positive discipline guidelines. While these strategies are essential for all boys, they can also save boys of color from checking out of education by grade 3 - 4.

Sources: Understanding Boys in the 21st Century: A White Paper of the National Center for the Development of Boys, 2018,; Boys and Girls Learn Differently, (2011) and The Minds of Boys (2007), Michael Gurian and Kathy Stevens, Jossey Bass/John Wiley, updated 2017 at


REFERENCE Suggested Reading For more references, visit

The Proposal to Create a White House Commission on Boys and Men, a meta-study published by the Commission to Create a White House Council on Boys and Men, (updated, 2016),

Tom Mortenson, “For Every 100 Girls,”

Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education, 2016,

David Autor and Melanie Wasserman, “Wayward Sons: The Emerging Gender Gap in Labor Markets and Education” Third Way, March 2013

Victoria L. Dunckley, M.D., “Gray Matters: Too Much Screen Time Damages the Brain” Psychology Today, February 2014

Ryan D’Agostino, “The Drugging of the American Boy,” Esquire, March, 2014.

Michael Sullivan, “Season of Life: Redefining Masculinity,” Odysssey, Decebmer 2015.

REFERENCE Books for Parents and Educators Compiled below are a few books for parents interested in research and approaches in the art of raising boys.

Masterminds & Wingmen Rosalind Wiseman Harmony Books. 2013

Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men Leonard Sax, PhD. Basic Books, 2009.

Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Kids Roots and Wings

The Wonder of Boys Michael Gurian, Tarcher/Putnam, 2006

Kenneth R. Ginsburg, MD, American Academy of Pediatrics, 2014.

The War Against Boys Christina Hoff Sommers, Simon and Schuster, 2015

DVD: Raising Cain: Exploring the Inner Lives of America’s Boys Hosted by Michael Thompson, Ph.D. PBS Home Video, 2006.

For a larger selection of great books, visit 23

Boys in society today

Today’s boys are caught in a whirlwind of cultural transition

Today’s boys are surrounded by an unprecedented variety of distractions, such as video games, cell phones, and the Internet. With this flood of new influences, it is important to provide boys with a road map to navigate their increasingly complex society with a sense of balance and strong values. Boys need to be surrounded by positive influences to break through popular culture’s narrow definition of manhood. The importance of surrounding boys with the right mentors and peers cannot be underestimated. The challenge of our changing times is to find and hone the strengths of boys, empower them and teach them to manage—and take pride in—their responsibilities to self, family, community and world. Screen time and screen addictions are a major factor in boys’ lives today. There is a lot you can do to protect your sons. 25

TIPS for Parents and Educators


As boys experience stress today their brains produce more cortisol (the stress hormone), often at higher amounts than is healthy. Some stress is good, too much chronic stress is not.

Try these approaches to lowering their chronic stress: •

Make sure they are not in repetitive danger from abuse or bullying.

Make sure they get at least two hours of physical exercise per day and at least one hour per day of time out in nature (or, if weather does not permit it, walking through an indoor location with no screens turned on!)

Offer them a glass of water to help lower cortisol levels before trying to resolve conflicts. Boys will use more words when walking shoulder-toshoulder as opposed to talking face-to-face.

Give them a cluster of role models, including mom, dad, and other family members, and also including, especially as they turn 9 or 10, at least two healthy male role models.To help find role models, enroll them in sports or other activities run by men.

Count the number of hours per day that they spend in front of screens (cell phone, computer, Ipad, E-reader, TV, movies, videogames, etc.). If that number is too high (for instance, 5 hours for a 12 year old is likely too high), cut out one area of screen time. You might tell your son, “There will be no video games on a school night and here’s why.” Explain the danger of screen time to the developing male brain.

Watch for signs of depression, under-motivation, or increased violence. A primary sign may be “social isolation” in which the boy begins to pull away from friends and family and spend far more time alone than is healthy. If you see signs of this, talk with school counselors and other family members to deal with this issue as early as possible.

Let boys be boys. They tend to show their love in many ways that are physically more aggressive than girls. Most of these shows of “aggression nurturance” and “kinesthetic love” are just as valuable in building strong socialemotional development in the brain as talking is. Most, also, are not dangerous and are not violent. As you judge and discipline a boy’s behavior, help him see the difference between aggressive love and violence, and notice how valuable aggressive love is in building resilience in both boys and girls.


REFERENCE Books for Parents and Educators Compiled below are a few books for parents interested in research and approaches in the art of raising boys.

Season of Life: A Football Star, a Boy, a Journey to Manhood

iGen Jean M. Twenge PhD Atria Books. 2017

Jeffery Marx Simon & Schuster. 2003

The End of Molasses Classes: Getting Our Kids Unstuck--101 Extraordinary Solutions for Parents and Teachers

Soar David Banks 37 Ink / Atria Books. 2014

Ron Clark Touchstone. 2011

Reset Your Child’s Brain Victoria L. Dunckley New World Library. 2015

Boys Should Be Boys : 7 Secrets to Raising Healthy Sons Meg Meeker Ballantine Books. 2008

For a larger selection of great books, visit

REFERENCE Books for Parents and Educators Compiled below are a few books for parents interested in research and approaches in the art of raising boys.

Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys Stephen James, David Thomas Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 2009

That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week Ana Homayoun Penguin Group. 2010

How Do You Tuck in a Superhero?: And Other Delightful Mysteries of Raising Boys Rachel Balducci Revell, 2010

The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money Ron Lieber HarperColins, 2015

What a Son Needs from His Mom Cheri Fuller Bethany House Publishers, 2013

The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults Frances E. Jensen. MD with Amy Ellis Nutt HarperColins, 2015


Boys are born with incredible potential, but they are often misunderstood and mismanaged in the classroom and in life. This leads to underperformance and disengagement at every level. With decades of research and best practices at our fingertips, we can meet the needs of boys by better understanding the way nature, nurture, and culture affect their lives. It’s time to engage boys in a more thoughtful way. It’s time to speak their language!

Check out all the latest research and resources today! 31

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Understanding Boys  

A resource guide for parents, educators, and coaches of boys

Understanding Boys  

A resource guide for parents, educators, and coaches of boys