Recently, somebody tweeted me a link to a blog post lamenting the fact that children's books at their local book store (in Australia) were categorized by gender.
Comedy? You bet.
Boy? Girl? Well...
My first question is WHY? Especially when it comes to children's books. Our family is made up of voracious readers, and I'm overjoyed that my son has followed in those footsteps.
Books don't discriminate, so why should we?
My son's interests are many, and—like most almost-five-year olds—ever changing. That means we have books that feature pirates, princesses, trucks, bugs, birds, and the occasional missing Waldo.
If I walked into that particular bookstore and went to the boys' section, what books would be there? I doubt I would find some of my son's favorite stories. Fancy Nancy would surely not be upon the shelves. And where would his vast collection of Eric Carle books go? Would they be filed under "boy" or "girl" or..."other"?
In my mind, they would settle in quite nicely under "kid."
Beyond how books are shelved (and to be fair, I have never seen children's books classified by gender at my local bookstore, thankfully), there's also the issue of what sorts of books are there. Despite the fact that it's almost winter, let's take a quick look at a set of books that graced the shelves of many bookstores this past summer:
...because apparently your children's summer activities need to be segregated based on their sex. Just like the boys/girls section in some bookstores, why isn't it enough to have a "Kids' Summer Book?"
Would the book have turned out to be too long if it included fun summer activities that all kids might enjoy? Perhaps they got tripped up over what color the cover should be, seeing as they went with the done-to-death blue = boys and pink = girls for these books.
Just looking at the covers, I'm still left wondering, Why the need for two separate books? Both have pictures of bikes, gardening supplies, and summer treats. There are a few differences, but neither that scream "ONLY BOYS CAN DO THIS!" or vice versa (I'm pretty certain girls do not hold a monopoly on horses or that only boys can do Karate).
The descriptions of the books (via Barnes & Nobles' website) tell somewhat of a different story. The boys' book includes a description chock full of active wording and excitement, whereas the girls' version has a much more passive feel.
"This book is sure to be a hit with boys! It's filled with puzzles, quizzes, and activities, not to mention tips on how to pitch a tent, how to make your own treasure map, and how to build a powerboat! This book is a must-have on any summer road trip packing list. Just grab a pencil and you're good to go!"
"With activities like making fortune tellers and throw pillows, and tips such as how to plan the perfect picnic, girls are sure to love this activity book! It also includes spot-the-difference puzzles, doodle pages, mazes, and more!"
Fortune tellers and throw pillows?
Growing up in the suburbs of a busy New England city, summer for me was a blur of camp, swimming, pick up games of streetball, exploring woods, trips with my family, eating lots of ice cream, and other kid-friendly activities. Nothing that I remember doing was heavily entrenched in one gender or another. It was simply summer fun.
While I'm all for inspiring our children and providing them with a book of solutions when the dreaded "We're boooooooooored. What do we do now?" occurs, these solutions do not need to be gender codified.
With gender stereotypes pervading our TVs, movies, toys, clothes, etc., can't we just have kids' books without adding more labels?