Forgot to write a blog post yesterday as I was busy catching up on my reading. I’m kind of glad I did, because this morning I went online to find out that it is Stories For All week.
I’ve learned that most kids are less interested in the gender of the main character and more interested in the kind of book—action, humor, fantasy, mystery, etc. In adults’ well-meant and honest desire to help boys find books they’ll love, we often only offer them books about boys. We don’t give them a chance.
This leads to generations of boys denied the opportunity of learning a profound empathy for girls that can come from reading novels. Leads to a culture where boys feel perfectly fine mocking and booing things many girls like and adults don’t even correct them because “boys will be boys.” Leads to boys and girls believing “girlie” is the gravest insult, that girls are less significant, not worth your time.
It’s like in the Princess Bride when the boy at first really dislikes the book because he feels he’s supposed to. In the movie he’s playing a sports video game because what could be more manly than that? He doesn’t want to have anything to do with the book. He even asks, “Does it have any sports in it?”. His grandfather has to convince him that the book is manly enough for him, but he still complains every time there is something even remotely “girly”, aka romance.
**News flash** Boys fall in love too!
When the romance starts the boy says, “When does it get good?” And asks about the sports. The grandfather insists that it’ll get better and keeps reading. The boy begrudgingly lets him continue, but by the end of the book he’s enthralled in the story, upset when it ends, and asks his grandfather to read it again because he no longer minds the “girly” parts.
That illustrates an amazing example of what happens when adults give boys the chance to form their own opinions, and when boys give themselves a chance to experience something they may be uncomfortable with. Amazing, right?
Shannon Hale leaves us with these questions at the end of her blog post, and I want to share them as well-
How deep is the assumption that there are boy books and girl books? Does it matter? What have you witnessed with regards to gendered reading? What damage does gendered reading cause to both girls and boys? What can each of us do to undo the damage and start making a change?