It may explain why boys are often tongue tied while proposing to a girl, as a new study by University of Alaska Fairbanks Professor Judith Kleinfeld has revealed that boys, regardless of their socio economic status, lag behind their female peers in language skills.
Kleinfeld said, a snapshot of the performance of high school seniors on the 2002 National Assessment of Educational Progress still shows that, compared to girls, a larger percentage of boys scored in the lowest quartile, "below basic," on reading and writing tests.
And that trend was not limited to low-income students or ethnic minorities. Even among the sons of white, college-educated parents, the girls fared markedly better than their male peers on reading and writing assessments.
Within that group, about a quarter of boys scored below basic in reading and writing. Only 7 and 6 per cent of girls, respectively, fell into that category.
"The national controversy focuses on this question: Is there a boy problem at all or is there just a males of colour problem or a poverty problem," said Kleinfeld, who spoke on her findings during the White House Conference on Helping America's Youth in Indianapolis in June.
"These findings show that boys are in trouble across the board, not just boys of any particular group."
She said the nation needs to find the reason for boys' lower literacy rates and find ways to boost their basic skills in reading and writing.
"The women's movement deserves credit for its success in raising the scores of girls in mathematics and science and for helping create a new generation of ambitious young women,"
"We need to do the same for boys in their typical areas of weakness, like reading and writing," she said.
To that end, Kleinfeld has partnered with researchers and educators from throughout the country to form The Boys Project, a program that aims to launch a national discussion on the educational needs of boys and ultimately spearhead efforts to increase boys' achievement nationwide.