Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Yup, still talking about gender and reading.

I've done some ranting and railing about books and other products that peg themselves as "for girls" or "for boys." But I've also done some raving about Jon Scieszka's Guys Read initiative and the short story collections collections it produces "for guys." As my eyes fell on my staff rec for Guys Read: Funny Business at the store yesterday, I found myself wondering if this was a double standard. Am I a hypocrite who gives a free pass for sexism to the author of The Stinky Cheese Man?

After a few minutes on the Guys Read website, I felt a lot better. "These are books that guys have told us they like," says the intro text. The books on the site aren't chosen based on assumptions; someone asks actual, current boys. The site explains its purpose using statistics, makes moderate claims (oh, what a difference "many" makes in the phrase "many boys"), and admits repeatedly that its creators don't have a complete understanding of the achievement gap between boys and girls in reading.

While admissions are being made, I'll admit that I haven't checked any of the offending "stories/stickers/activities for little boys/girls" books for front or back matter that explain their methodologies. If such annotation exists, I'll be happy to look at it with an open mind. Until then, you're likely to find me around S on the Intermediate Fiction shelf, recommending Guys Read books to all sorts of customers. (Come on, if you were a young female reader and saw this lineup, wouldn't you at least kind of  want the book?)


  1. i think its totaly difrent to say something is for girls or for boys cuz that implies that the other would not like it where as saying some boys like this so other boys might like it to is just a recomendation like i might rec dif peps dif books depending on thier intrests and gender can play a role in what intrests they have i dont know if im makeing sense but i think the tone is difrent

  2. The phrase "actual, current boys" amuses me for some reason.

  3. @Michie, exactly. I feel like Guys Read is so much less patronizing/condescending. I see a lot of adult customers (usually not the recipients' parents) using the "for boys/for girls" labels as guidelines for gift buying, or asking me which gender a product is "for." Guys Read seems designed for kids to find and choose for themselves.

    @Nicole, yeah, it's not a phrase I would use in, say, an academic paper.