Thursday, March 09, 2006

Boys and Girls and Reading

Emily Bazelon writes about boys and girl's books in today's Slate.

Bazelon feared she'd never be able to read her most loved books to her boys. And, she writes, "I don't like the idea of teachers or librarians steering my sons toward some preconceived notion of 'boy-friendly' reading material. Don't tell my boys, subtly or directly, that they'd probably prefer a book with a boy for a hero. Don't even point out the distinction."

Bazelon aims to sort out professional opinions on boys and reading in attempt to keep her own boys reading. While this is a noble aim, I do think she unfairly blames librarians in the article. (Note: I'm not a librarian) She claims, "Librarians and teachers often look down on boy humor or nonfiction, and their disdain seeps through to the boys who crave those things." This hasn't been my experience either in public or in school libraries, but it is true that boys often do enjoy this type of fiction. But, then again, so do many girls. In fact, a school librarian introduced Scieszka's books to my daughter.

The only difference I've seen between boys and girls and reading, frankly, is that more boys do seem to enjoy books about "how things work" than girls might. (Bazelon quotes Marc Aronson on this phenomenon in her article.) Other than that, good readers of both sexes enjoy stories, memoirs, non-fiction, and, yes, books with rude jokes at their heart. I think the real issue is making sure boys become good readers, not what they read.