Thursday, June 28, 2012

Isn't reading supposed to be fun?

A post over at Book Riot got me thinking. The gist of the post, titled "The Gender of Reading Shame" (I'll give you a moment to be shocked that this interested me), is that reading genre fiction can be a source of shame, but women are more likely than men to be embarrassed to read the kinds of genre fiction commonly associated with their genders. I think this probably says as much about how the literature itself is viewed as it does about readers or how they're viewed; the term "chick lit" spells it out pretty clearly. Women reading sci-fi in public might get an occasional sniff from the narrowest-minded literature snobs, but how many men can feel safe reading a pink-covered paperback on the subway?

But what about kids? Gendered reading shame is a factor for some of them, and boys who want to read "girl books" bear the brunt of it. But I've never heard of a kid equivalent of genre fiction shame. (Book length shame, yes.) Kids, in general, love their series - their Warriors, their Alex Rider, their Emily Windsnap, their Harry Potter, their Percy Jackson, their Pretty Little Liars - and love to talk about them. When I do see embarrassment about what kids are reading, it tends to be on the part of the parents. Parent: "We're having a hard time getting Little Legacy into reading." Me: "Have you looked at the Wimpy Kid or Big Nate books? They're more visual, which can make it easier to--" Parent: "Oh, we've done those. We're looking for something beyond those."

The idea that there are things you're supposed to be reading and things you're not supposed to be reading? It comes from somewhere.


  1. You're right - it has to come from somewhere. But maybe the point it that parents and teachers have to challenge it - beginning by being as open in their reading choices in front of their children as possible. I don't mean reading vampires if it's not your thing, rather picking up a book and saying I love this because ... (as opposed to taking one look at vampires and going ugh!)

  2. Romance is a top genre of e-book readers. No more cover shame.

  3. @JO - I agree with you. I would love to see more parents send the simple message that reading doesn't have to be like a video game where you achieve "levels" - there's a place for trying challenging books, but there's also a place for reading whatever the heck you want.

    @Johanna - yes. But in general, adults have a lot more options for making private reading choices than most kids do.