School resources and the gender reading literacy gap in South African schools
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The importance of reading literacy as a foundation for academic success is widely acknowledged. What is less well understood is why gender patterns in reading literacy emerge so early and continue throughout learners' educational careers. This paper adds to this literature by investigating the gender patterns of reading literacy (why girls outperform boys) in South African primary schools and whether changes in the schooling system can result in favourable changes in this gender reading gap. Compatible with international trends, girls in primary schools were significantly better readers than boys during the period of investigation. We found strong links between material and human resources and achievement in reading. The link between increased resource availability and improved educational outcomes was stronger for girls than for boys and therefore increased the female academic advantage. This finding
remained consistent across socioeconomic levels. The implication is that either the school resources available in South African primary schools are more suitable for teaching girls how to read or that girls appear to be able to make use of the available resources more effectively to improve reading. Policy interpretations are discussed in the context of improved resourcing of schools.