Weekend reading: boys and girls go out to play

Weekend Reading is a weekly collation of 3-5 articles that have caught my attention, published on Saturday mornings. Previous editions can be found here.

1. What are we teaching boys when we discourage them from reading books about girls? (Washington Post)

For the first time I had evidence that contradicted everything I’d been taught about boys and reading. I started to pay more attention and found I did in fact have many boy readers — most likely hundreds of thousands of them at this point, but they’d been reading in secret because they were embarrassed. I got better at noticing the myriad ways adults teach boys that they should feel ashamed for taking an interest in a story about a girl, from outright (“Put that down, that’s a girl book”) to subtle (“I think you’ll like this book even though it’s about a girl”). There is peer shaming as well, but it starts with and is supported by adults.

I’ve now asked thousands of kids the same question: “What kind of books do you like?” They answer: fantasy, funny, comics, mystery, nonfiction, etc. No kid has ever said, “I like books about boys.” Yet booksellers tell me that parents shop for their sons as if books have gender: “I need a boy book. He won’t read anything about a girl.”

2. Playing, with fire: How much risk should we expose our kids to? (Macleans)

We have this growing movement to what I call anxiety-based caregiving—caregiving where decisions about childhood and what children need are made based on anxiety, rather than stepping back a bit and thinking about what might be best for child development. You’re in a playground and you hear, “Be careful!” “Get down!” “Watch out!” Those are things that are based on anxiety, not on stepping back and thinking: What does the child hear when you’re saying those things? What the child hears is: “The world is a dangerous place. You don’t trust me to navigate that world. I need you to take care of me; I can’t be independent myself.”

3. The Everlasting Joy of Terrifying Children (The Atlantic)

Stine’s scaremongering is palatable to young readers, he told me, because his stories aren’t ultimately tragedies. “I think that’s a really big part of it,” he said. “Every single Fear Street has a happy ending.” Having just reread the first in a trilogy of Fear Street novels called 99 Fear Street, about a family that unknowingly moves into an evil house, I gently corrected him. That story ends—spoiler alert—with one child forever stuck in the wall, another dead, a father who is blind, and a mother who has lost her mind. Stine dissolved into laughter. “That’s horrible,” he said. “Who would write a thing like that for kids?”

4. Sometimes I ignore my children, and that’s okay (rageagainsttheminivan.com)

I am not a butler.
Nor am I a maid. I don’t jive with the idea that we need to “stand in waiting” in case our kids need something. I don’t want my kids to assume that this is my role, either. I’m available – always. But I’m going to preoccupy myself in the moments that I’m not needed, or when they are preoccupied. The idea of standing-in-waiting for my children is ludicrous. If everyone is engrossed in play or in a book, I’m going to find something to do. I may watch and film and cheer when they master the bike ramp for the first and third and fifth time. But by the 100th pass? I might find something else to do. And I think my kid may be okay, because I’m quite fine with them understanding that not every single moment in life is about them.