"Boys' Books" --good thing, bad thing, or whatever

There's an article in the Guardian today, in which the British Secretary for Education proposes that every secondary school have a "'boys' bookshelf' stacked with contemporary authors such as Melvyn Burgess and Anthony Horowitz to provide 'positive, modern, relevant role models' for boys who are reluctant to read or nervous about being bullied..." At the end of the article is a short list of books that might qualify, including one I just checked out of my library --The Foreshadowing, by Marcus Sedgwick.

I'm not sure I like this idea. I suppose (tongue in check) that once the boys start reading they will naturally learn to love it and not care anymore if they are carrying around books with strong female characters, or books with pink covers and sparkles, and I suppose that boys who like old fashioned fantasy or gentle character driven books are a. doomed anyway b. strong readers who don't need a boys' bookshelf. And I realize that girls aren't the point of this, but I for one am utterly put off by books labeled as "boys' books" and have probably refused to read many good books in consequence.

This article struck a chord in me. I just read my 6 year old's report card, and one area where progress is needed is in "choosing appropriate books." Apparently he has been choosing inappropriate ones left and right. What this means beats me. Has he begged to cross the lines of gender stereotypes? Has he begged for books that name body parts? Or has he simply asked for books he can't read yet (which includes most of the books in the world)?

The idea of Official "Books for Boys" Pickers telling my children what books to read is not a comfortable one.

Here's The Foreshadowing. A book for boys.


  1. Yah, that would rub me the wrong way too. I have young students who like chapter books and who only like wordless books and who will only check out nonfiction books on sharks and who would really prefer to borrow a different superhero book every week if I had enough of them. And there are the ones who check out one book and want to keep it for a month or two because they just like that one and there are no others exactly like it. Some of these preferences are easier for me to accommodate than others, but are any of them really "inappropriate"? Beats me.

  2. Oy to the gender issues that some people have!

    I have read his previous duo o' books, and I enjoyed them. Guess the names of the main characters . . .

    Boy and Willow.


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