Lately I have been seeing more and more books advertised for boys and books for just girls. While shopping the bookstores this Christmas, I spotted more boy-only and girl-only kinds of books than I had ever seen.
These included story books, coloring books (or “anti” coloring books as it were), and books of neat things for boys to do and for girls to do. There is no mistaking these titles because they’re named things like, “The Boys’ Doodle Book”, or “The Daring Book for Girls”. [I am not knocking these particular books, just using them as examples.]
I have glanced through a lot of these books and admit even owning a couple myself. The boy books seem to include stories, projects and illustrations about super heroes, treasure maps, monster trucks, mysteries and sleuthing, codes and ciphers, and things of this nature. The girl books seem to basically involve fantasy, romance, animals, flowers and basically anything furry and/or pink. To be fair, the girl books do sometimes include scientific topics, financial matters and other things, even pirates in one edition. But, glaringly, and for the most part, these are fairly stereotypically slanted in pink and blue, like something one might expect a hundred years ago, but not today. Just take a look at the free digital image I found on the Internet today, above.
I don’t know where I am going with this except to say that this bothers me a bit. It falls squarely in line with better preparing little boys for math, science and physical pursuits, while encouraging marriage, family and pretty things for girls. Wasn’t there a movement begun some time ago that said something about equal rights? Aren’t there programs and incentives specifically aimed at attracting young women to mathematics and science careers? Unless I have missed something, don’t boys still take ballet and girls still sign up for softball?
Research has shown time and time again that anxiety over certain subjects, mathematics for instance, comes from teachers and other role models. That is, if teachers (or, parents, in homeschooling) display their uncertainty and ineptness in a subject area, students pick up on it, and do the same thing. I follow these studies and sometimes write about them. You can read more HERE, to give you some understanding of what I am talking about.
I’m not saying that little boys and little girls don’t like these books. And I am not taking anything away from the talented authors and clever publishers who put these out. There is obviously an audience out there eager to buy them up. It’s just that I have used “boy books” with girls and “girl books” with boys pretty successfully. And I have never really had a problem assigning a super hero story to a mixed audience or talking about a puzzle-solving mystery to a co-ed class. Granted, tales of love and romance can be a little bit of a tougher sell to a mixed audience of a certain age, but even these can work, too.
It seems to me that parents and teachers should encourage children to read whatever they like and learn anything they want to learn, without the added bias of using gender-specific resources. It just strikes me as odd that such a forward society would take such a giant leap backwards by gobbling up these kinds of books, but that’s just me…
I would love to hear what you think.