Teaching Reading – My Boy vs. My Girl

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This year I have two emerging readers – Tiger (7-year-old boy) and Bee (5-year-old-girl). This is the first time that I have systematically taught anyone to read.

But wait….what about Curly my oldest (9-year-old girl)? I always claim that I never taught that child to read. I taught her some phonics and we practiced sounding out a few words. Suddenly she was reading-almost over night. She progressed from readers to easy chapter books to longer chapter books in the course of one year. Now she reads anything and everything. I have no idea how she learned to read but I am very sure that I had nothing to do with it!

So, now that my next two children are in early elementary we are focusing on phonics and learning to sound out words. I have realized that Curly was the exception and not the norm. Learning to read can take absolutely forever and it is the most time consuming and frustrating thing that I have ever done!

I didn’t expect my other two children to have struggles because I was basing my prediction on Curly’s experience. When my other two children did not learn to read in just a few months I wondered if I was doing something seriously wrong. After talking with many other moms and a few teachers, I discovered that it is very normal for learning to read to be challenging and take much time and practice.

I’ve been working slowly with Tiger for several years. It has been a painful and slow process. He is making great strides in reading ability but I never thought it would be such a struggle. Now I’m beginning the entire process again with Bee. I’m seeing some differences in teaching my boy vs. my girl. Sure, some of the differences are simply related to their personalities or maturity level. But I have talked with other parents and there seems to be several differences in teaching boys and girls to read.

Attention span

  • Tiger has a shorter attention span than any of my other children. Therefore, he has a difficult time staying focused on a page long enough to decode an entire sentence. He is often distracted and looks up from the page so many times that he loses his place and forgets what he is reading. He can often sound out sentences with zero comprehension.
  • Bee on the other hand can focus on a page long enough to complete an entire sentence. This means that she can comprehend what she’s reading and she can follow the flow of the story.

Lack of movement

  • Reading requires that the reader sit still enough to be able to follow the words on the page. Tiger likes to do his school while rolling around on the floor, sitting on the table, or standing in his chair. Unfortunately, reading is one of the few things that requires him to sit still. Therefore, he has a more difficult time with reading since he would rather be moving. If he could sit still long enough to read one page then he would be able to make faster progress.
  • Bee doesn’t mind sitting still and staying at one task for a slightly longer period of time. Therefore, she is making much faster reading progress than Tiger ever did.

Language skills

  • Tiger was late to start talking and for a long time he was a boy of very few words. He was not interested in talking or even attempting many of the words that I would say to him. He was more focused on playing, moving, and doing. As a result, he is a very coordinated kid. However, he does not have the language skills that my girls have.
  • Bee on the other hand talked much earlier than Tiger (though not as early as Curly) and she is still very chatty. She is more interested in learning new words and finding new ways to express herself. Therefore, she is more excited about reading and seeing the words that she knows written out for her in print.


  • I’ve noticed that Tiger struggles to memorize things like poems, words, or Bible verses. This makes reading more challenging for him because he doesn’t memorize the words even after he’s seen them multiple times. He still needs to sound out words nearly every time. He didn’t recognize word patterns or seem to be able to remember any words that he read previously. This means that when he got to the end of a sentence her had forgotten what all the previous words were. There was zero fluency in his reading.
  • Bee on the other hand has a much easier time memorizing poems or verses. She is able to quickly detect word patterns and after she has seen a word several times she memorizes it and recognizes it in later stories.


  • Many of the reading differences boil down to motivation for my kids. Tiger simply does not care whether he can read or not. I try to entice him with books about topics that interest him. But overall he is more concerned with building things, taking things a part, and participating in things that allow him to move.
  • Bee is more motivated to learn to read. I don’t know if it’s because she wants to surpass her brother or because she is interested in learning on her own.

I was so surprised to have such a difficult time teaching Tiger to read. I didn’t expect him to read over night in the way that Curly did but I thought we would have made more progress in the past two years. Then when I started teaching Bee I assumed she would struggle along the way that Tiger did. However, she’s been my middle ground. She doesn’t catch on in the way that Curly did; yet, she doesn’t struggle in the way that Tiger does. She makes daily forward progress and remembers concepts from previous lessons.

While it has been significantly more challenging to teach Tiger to read (and some of the reasons are based on things other than gender), I don’t want him at a disadvantage or for him to develop a distaste for reading.

I have had great success using All About Reading in our homeschool. It has been an amazing program for both Tiger and Bee. You can find more information about the program right here!

All About Reading

Every child learns at his or her own pace. Some children (of either gender) catch on to reading more quickly. Some have various learning challenges that make reading very slow. However, after observing my boy and my girl and talking with other moms we have concluded that there are significant differences in teaching reading to a boy vs. to a girl. However, recognizing the challenges and differences has enabled me to help them in different ways so they can both experience success. 

More Resources

What I Wish I Would Have Done in Reading and Spelling

How I Make All About Reading Work for Me

Why I Like All About Reading

Using Audiobooks to Help a Struggling Reader

Helping My Struggling Reader



Hip Homeschool Moms




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