What are little boys (books) made of?

I had an interesting discussion with some writer friends about kids and books and gender. People in the book world will tell you girls typically read books for/about girls in addition to books for/about boys. Our sons, however, will only read books aimed at boys. They simply won’t pick books with female protagonists and even avoid books by female authors. That’s why the Harry Potter series wasn’t written by Joanne Rowling.

My friends and I wondered if we’ve created a self-fulfilling prophecy — we being parents. Are boys truly wired to avoid “girl” books? Or do parents subconsciously plant those wires?

I think it works like this: Parents assume their little toddler sons will most enjoy Bob the Builder and books about cars and space. That’s what they buy and read. Why bother with The Paper Bag Princess or Shelia Rae, The Brave? Or, as they get older, stories about Junie B. Jones, Ramona Quimby, Laura Ingalls or the Gaither sisters?

After all, we know girls typically read books for/about girls in addition to books for/about boys. Our sons, however, will only read books aimed at boys.

I specifically read The Paper Bag Princess to my daughter so she’d fall in love with a story about a girl saving a prince. I wanted her to wonder why Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty sat around singing about princes rescuing them from dire circumstances.

I don’t have a son. It’s unfair to suggest I would’ve bought all the “right” books. Maybe my bookshelf would be filled with books about cars and sharks and characters named Billy and Tom and Charlie.

There’s a clear expectation that girls will consistently engage in the experience of boys via books, television and movies. Frankly, they can’t participate in our male-dominated culture if they don’t.

On the surface it sounds like I’m talking about girl power, but it’s actually boys who are shortchanged. They’re missing the stories and perspective of a big part of our world – half, to be exact.

Consider this food for thought as we head into Thanksgiving and, perhaps, a conversation that may change the way you shop for the boys in your life this Christmas.

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