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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Stories for all: thinking about our culture and gender in books

So I just posted my review of The Princess in Black, and I wanted to give a signal boost to Shannon Hale and what she's talking about on her blog right now.

In my review I said that my boys love The Princess in Black books, and that is totally true. But I could see why some boys wouldn't want to read them. As a culture, we often discourage boys from reading books about girls.

Shannon Hale has just hosted an awesome series on her blog. She's talking about Stories for All, and especially about letting boys read books about girls without shaming them. I have to say that I knew this was kind of a problem, but I grew up in a home where we were encouraged to read everything. It wasn't my problem. It's only been in the past few years, as my oldest son has gotten a little bit older, that I've started noticing the social pressure for him to avoid doing girly things. I don't know if I cared before, but now, I think it's personal.

I took the kids on a hike the other day. They insisted on bringing books along.

I don't want my sons to feel like they can't read a really good book, because they would be teased or judged for carrying around a book with a girl on the cover. Girls carry around books about boys all the time, and adults don't mind at all. I think a lot of people recognize that it would be good for boys to learn how to cook. I haven't heard much teasing about that, at least in his generation. But the books? Yeah, we've got some habits to change, there.

So, anyway, I'm going to link to a couple more of my favorite pieces on Shannon's blog. All of them were good, but I particularly liked this one by a librarian who conducted an experiment, and the one by a young author whose book has a pink cover, and this one that starts with Ramona the Pest, and especially this one, by a guy who wrote a book with a girl as the main character.

For further reading, I definitely recommend #storiesforall on twitter.

I hope you'll look into this, whether you have sons or daughters, and whether or not you're a parent.

Have you observed kids being told they should stick to books that are marketed to their gender? Do you think it's a problem?

I'd love to talk about it.

5 comments:

  1. Hmm haven't thought about it yet. Rebecca is just starting chapter books and I have directed her towards girls as protagonist so far, unconsciously. Little house and Junie B jones so far. Haven't noticed any pressure yet but I need to balance my book recommendations for her!

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    1. Glad to hear that your unconscious decision has come to your attention! :D My boys have both read some Little House and some Junie B. If you're looking for a great book that stars a boy, go with Alvin Ho (by Lenore Look). So. funny.

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  2. I really enjoyed the #StoriesForAll posts, too. Shannon Hale has become such a strong voice in this area. I haven't noticed this much yet with my daughter - sometimes she wants sparkly pink books and sometimes she wants zombies, and this seems to be generally ok. But I think that if I had sons, I would really be up in arms.

    As a reviewer, I have continued to think about this issue as I've written my last couple of reviews. At this point, I'm not saying anything about whether a book seems boy-friendly or girl-friendly - I just talk about the book. But I do think that there's more to think about here. Topics for KidLitCon next year, I guess.

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    1. Yeah, I didn't notice it much until school started, and even now I don't hear a whole lot about it. I was definitely shocked and dismayed though the other day. We had some friends and their kids over for dinner, and the dad started teasing his son, in front of us, about how he liked to watch iCarly (or some other Disney show starring a girl). I had never seen this show, but I immediately jumped in and said, "Hey, if it's a good show, it's a good show. I haven't seen it, but if it's a good show, why not watch it?" He responded by saying "It's kind of like watching My Little Pony, or something," which both my husband and I jumped right onto, because we *like* the My Little Pony reboot and we told our under-educated friend that there were lots of boys who liked to watch it, and they're called Bronies. Then we told him that Benjamin had read the entire Babysitters Club series over the summer. We may have ended up sounding defensive, but I couldn't let a little guy take flack for liking a "girl show" when he was in my house.

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  3. I think that we need to recognize that there ARE societal pressures and give boys, especially in middle school, encouragement and permission to read books about anything. My kids are old enough that I read "Free to Be You and Me" and dressed them all in overalls and solid color shirts. We had dolls and trucks for everyone. But to say that they don't notice the societal norms doesn't help. Most of my students now will read anything, but it has taken some effort!

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