Friday, September 2, 2011

Books for Girls and Boys

I spent the last three days back at school unpacking and beginning to set up for the new year. (Teachers are officially due back next Tuesday.) While unpacking and moving books around to cope with the perpetual problem of much too little shelf-space I was also thinking about what my students did (and didn't) read last year. To buy space on the shelves I moved several more series and popular authors into plastic tubs labeled by author or series. These tubs provide an easy way for students to find a particular type of book, essentially promoting those particular types of books.

This morning while reading the news, list-serve, e-mail etc. while putting off making labels and otherwise working productively, I read a series of articles about the genderization of reading - AKA boys books and girls books.
Charles London for the Huffington Post
Oposing Viewpoints at the School Library Journal
Saundra Mitchell's The Problem is not the books
And this is why the problem is not the books (with book list)

So back to my book tubs: If tubbing up a series or author essentially promotes them, am I "empowering" more boys or girls? What does it say if I put the Time Warp Trio next to the Magic Tree House and Abby Hayes next to Junie B Jones?

Here is a list of some of my tubs - an incomplete list because it is only ones that need new labels or that I clearly remember.
Paula Danziger
R.L. Stine
Lois Lowry
J.K. Rowling
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Magic Tree House / Mary Pope Osborne (2)
Arthur Chapter Books / Stephen Krensky
Horrible Harry / Suzy Kline
My Weird School / Dan Gutman
Rotten School / R.L. Stine
Dragon Slayers Accademy
Junie B. Jones
Dav Pilkey
Abby Hayes / Anne Mazer
Bone / Jeff Smith

Some series are definitely geared more to one gender than the other. I especially notice concern about gender appropriateness towards the older edge of the series age group (end of grade 3 - 5) rather than at the beginning (end of grade 1 - mid 3rd). Sometimes I feel that I see more struggling readers thinking about gender issues. Though perhaps the more proficient readers are more self sufficient...

I do feel that fewer "boy" books are exclusive to boys than to girls. I do recommend the story collection Guys Read Funny Business to anyone who likes funny stories. I would not probably recommend Fairy School Drop-Out or the Allie Finkle series by Meg Cabot to any boy. However, contrary to popular belief, guys do read and enjoy Junie B.

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