Originally published: 10.10.15
The Let Books Be Books campaign has attracted much media coverage and high profile support, but labelling books ‘for boys’ is sometimes defended as a useful tool for getting boys to read. Tricia Lowther argues that gendering reading doesn’t help literacy, and may even be harming boys’ chances.
The Let Books Be Books campaign asks children’s publishers to take the ‘Boys’ and ‘Girls’ labels off books and allow children real free choice in the kinds of stories and activity books that interest them. The campaign has had success with publishers and retailers like Usborne , Parragon, and Paperchase, and seen support from prominent authors, but of course there have been people who disagree with us, and one argument in particular keeps cropping up; gendered books are acceptable because we need to encourage boys to read more.
There are three assumptions here: there is a gender gap in reading, boys need special treatment because of this and separate books could be a solution.
But is it true that we need to encourage boys especially to read? And if so, why would separate books necessarily be a positive approach? Mightn’t they exacerbate the problem?
I asked teachers, educators and parents for their thoughts and experiences, and took a look at the idea that boys lag far behind girls when it comes to reading.