Pinning on Pinterest got me wondering- books for boys?* books for girls*?
I like the visual charts and am grateful to the people who put the charts together and then… there are simply books that it would be great to encourage everyone to read. Another site that had me wondering asked readers to contribute their idea of a “best line” from a book- so many offered up sentences from “classics” like Dickens, and Twain, Austin and Fitzgerald… and numerous quotes from Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”- texts that would have been on High School reading selections. Books that offer insight into the Humanities appear to have “staying power” – and had the reading audience for that particular site been younger, sentences from the Hunger Games might have appeared; this recent blockbuster movie(s) and trilogy had massive appeal – across the gender divide.
Books give us story- and kids know right away if they like or dislike the characters and the action, even if they are not yet ready to speak about the tone, or suggest that the vocabulary felt contrived, or that the action plodded along rather than catapulting the reader into the protagonist’s problem (literary analysis) . They also know that peer pressure can affect their liking/disliking a novel too. Children learning Greek myths may decide to “love” the Percy series- and not worry that the “hero” is a boy while the reader a girl… when I was working with post secondary students from Japan, I was struck by their knowledge of the Anne series; male and female alike wanted to get to Charlottetown (50th season this July) for the Anne of Green Gables summer festival- a book series that L.M. Montgomery wrote for an adult audience without expecting it to be relegated to “books for girls”. The Harry Potter series may have a strong female secondary character- but the stories belong to Harry- and if enjoyed, appeal to both genders. The “if enjoyed” above was intentional- having had students who ran the gamut from being passionate about Harry Potter to preferring almost any other story.
There is no “magic bullet” for making a reader, when “a reader” refers to someone who looks to books as relaxation; while enjoying the story, the reading meets a reader “somewhere”. Even strong readers, that is, individuals for whom reading is fluent and who have little trouble comprehending text may choose to discard a “popular” text, and may label themselves as non readers, preferring other activities. Best we can do then is encourage students to read for understanding, and to recognize that joy in literature includes all aspects of the graphic expression- comics, graphic novels, magazines, online gaming ( yes! gaming!!), art work…
Gender specific kid’s and young adult lists seem more directed at the adults – our hope in selecting the “right book” for the child. Best practice: make use of the library- borrow a whole bunch of books, and if time permits while the children are still of elementary age, read the books with them. There are so many new authors, and libraries make it their practice to stock the new with the classics- many offer on line book clubs too. Whether it be Fact or Fiction, students will be required to read a large amount of material between grade 1 and grade 12. As educators and parents, it is important we allow children to be comfortable with a variety of texts.
Please note: A non reader is not to be confused with a student who has a difficult time making sense of the printed word. The non reader CAN read, but has chosen to use free time in other activities. If we are to really broaden the next generation’s vision of roles as encompassing opportunity for all- perhaps separating boys and girls books is less than ideal.