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Written by Jamie Martin of Simple Homeschool and Steady Mom
Jonathan (age 9 at the time) and I sat side-by-side at the dining table, filling out his new compass–discussing what he’d like to learn about in the next six months.
We reached the section that asks, “What books have I read that have most impacted or inspired me?”
“Well, definitely Little Women,” he said without hesitation.
He had read Little Women, Little Men, and Jo’s Boys via audio book that year, and had thoroughly filled me in on all the plot details as he went along.
“How has that book impacted your life?” I asked, secretly pleased since it’s one of my all time favorites.
“Well, even though the sisters have disagreements, they still make up and love each other,” he answered.
We’ve read them all, gathered around our table, these so-called classic “girl” books: the Little House series, Anne of Green Gables, Pippi Longstocking.
And my two energetic, boisterous sons have loved them as much (or in some cases more!) than my daughter.
So I’ve been surprised to come across the idea, on social media or in casual conversation with other parents, that there are “boy or girl” books.
I’ve found that my kids don’t naturally pigeonhole or stereotype books by gender unless I (or someone else) do it for them.
I shared the books mentioned above with my kids for one simple reason: I love these characters and the lessons they have to teach, and wanted my children to as well.
Who could claim that the Little House series is for girls when they watch Pa fight the bear in the road, Almanzo put his life on the line to get wheat for the residents of De Smet, or when tensions rise between settlers and Native Americans?
That type of adventure and drama appeals to any kid.
And why would only girls identify with Anne with an “e” as she is dared to walk the ridgepole of a roof, smashes her slate over a classmate’s head, or plummets into the depths of despair at finding out the Cuthberts wanted a boy and not her?
In all these years of reading aloud, not once have my boys mentioned that perhaps these books weren’t suited to them.
So instead of asking is this a girl book or a boy book, maybe we should just ask is this a good book?
Is it worthy of my family’s time? Does it have characters and lessons that inspire us to grow, to be kind, to become our best selves?
Is it fun and does it connect with us as a family?
If so, then maybe it doesn’t matter what the gender of the main character happens to be.
Of course there may be times when we search for a certain gender-specific character to match a need in one of our daughters or sons. As our children grow, they need role models and mentors outside of the family…and books can be one excellent place to find them.
It’s also true that every child, boy or girl, is radically different and will be drawn to their own unique book choices. We should respect those, too.
But let’s be careful not to assume that certain titles won’t connect with our kids based on gender alone.
Let’s not accidentally miss out on books that could enhance our family and home culture, dismissing them because the genders of the characters don’t match those in our homes.
A few titles to consider for your upcoming year…
Female protagonists that appeal to girls and boys:
- Pippi Longstocking series
- All of a Kind Family series
- Anne of Green Gables series
- Little Women
- Little House on the Prairie series
- May B.
- Ronia the Robber’s Daughter
- Ramona series
- Understood Betsy
- The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
- Caddie Woodlawn
Male protagonists that appeal to both boys and girls:
- Little Britches
- Where the Red Fern Grows
- The Chronicles of Prydain
- The Black Stallion
- The Indian in the Cupboard
- Johnny Tremain
- The Adventures of Robin Hood
- Farmer Boy
- The Call of the Wild
- The Phantom Tollbooth
- Carry On, Mr. Bowditch
Here’s to books: the cheapest vacation you can buy.”
~ Charlaine Harris
Is there a traditional boy’s or girl’s book that has made a big impact on a child in your home?