No Boys Allowed: School visits as a woman writer
After reading, I tried an experiement. I asked my eight-year-old son if he wanted to read Little House in the Big Woods, a childhood favorite of mine. My heart sank as he got an incredulous look on his face. I willed him not to say the words, but out they came:
"But it's about a girl."
It wasn't his fault, and it wasn't completely mine. But it wasn't going to happen ever again. We had a heart-to-heart about why it's silly to think his older sister could read books about boys, but he couldn't read books about girls. We talked about how much he likes Hermione Granger. We talked about how scary and wrong it is when people think girls aren't as good as boys.
We've never taught "boy books" and "girl books" in our home, but somehow I'm still un-teaching it. And it's about so much more than just giving a gender to a book. This is about my son's views of women.
After we talked, I handed him my beloved, yellowed copy of Little House in the Big Woods, a birthday gift from my grandparents. He held it like the treasure it is and smiled when he found my grandma's note and my name plate and stamp on the inside. "I think you'll really like Laura," I said.
He devoured that book in less than a week, and my heart healed. The other day I handed him a copy of Clementine by Sara Pennypacker. I did not say, "Even though this is about a girl, I think you'll like it." I did not say, "I think you should read this because it's about a girl." He held out his hands for his big sister's copy of Clementine, and I said, "I think you'll really like her." And he does. She cracks him up.
Now I have a list of books to place in his path that I hope will teach him to love good writing and powerful characters so much that he won't pay any attention to "girl" or "boy". I may not be able to change the shaming that might take place if he were to take a book with a girl on the cover to school, but I can make our home a safe place where good books are celebrated, and not assigned gender.