- anonymous comment from School Library Builds 'The Cave' to Attract Boy Readers
One of the most common arguments that I read in the comments section of blogs that discuss boys and reading is that boys ought to be reading the same stuff as girls. That there is no need for there to be a distinction between good "Boy" books and good "Girl" books. That there is no reason to design a cover to appeal to one gender or the other because those opinions are merely "social pressure" creating and forcing gender roles on the poor kids.
The arguments I've seen all seem to follow that path, that the books aren't the problem, it's the boys (or the society that raises them), what with being all sexist, not wanting to read about feelings or books with girls in them, or being actively discouraged by meddling adults from reading things that aren't the appropriate gender. Do they mean me? Who do they mean? I've never done that, and in my library I've never seen anyone do it. But I still know that boys have different interests than girls, just as adults have different interests than 6-year-olds.
Yes, men generally have an advantage in just about everything they do in the world at large. Does this mean that, in the one thing guys are not at the advantage, we should just let them suffer? Is it some form of revenge for all these centuries of oppression to "even things out"? The best way to even things out is to say "Let men suffer, it's women's turn", which seems to be the spirit of the post I quoted above, and many others I've seen in the online world? Sexism seems to be defined differently now: it's now sexist to even acknowledge the differences between boys and girls.
Let me frame it a different way: All you girls out there, what's it like to get whacked in the family jewels? Don't know? Well, I can't tell you, because you are completely unable to conceptualize it, any more than I will ever know what it's like to give birth. Boys and girls are different, and have different experiences. We can do well to help try and bridge that gap, but there are certain experiences that can never be fully understood.
So why should we force kids to read books that they will never quite grasp the same way? I know the answer: reading these books helps to foster a certain understanding that no other medium can. That doesn't mean that we have to use the same book for boys and girls to help build that understanding. Books aren't, and shouldn't be, cookie cutter, one size fits all for every kid. And one of the factors we must consider when recommending a book is the gender of the kid in question. Not the only one, of course, but certainly not one to be ignored.