Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Reading for the Gender Conscious

Like most parents of young children, I sometimes find myself obsessing about how well or how fast my kid is learning to read. I recently learned that March is National Reading Month, which makes sense, since in the past few weeks parents everywhere were invited to schools to read stories (and in some cases, celebrate Dr. Seuss' birthday - also in March!).
But in my mind, March has always been Women's History Month and on the 8th - International Women's Day. So when I think about reading, I think - especially this month - about the gender messages my daughter gets in the books she reads. I just find all too often - still - there are just so many stories (and movies and shows and their spin-off related books) where the leader or the main character or the one-who-solves everything is always a boy or a man.
That's why I love shows like Word Girl on PBS - and yes - she has some spin off books. Well, at least one, where she takes on a crazy robot. We love reading that because it combines two of my daughter's favorite things - words/ word play and robots! How could you go wrong?

Of course, we read stories every day at home, hang out in bookstores and the library. But we also have a secret treasure trove downstairs at grandma's house. Because my mother saves everything, had four kids, and used to teach disabled children in NYC's public schools -- she has an amazing collection of books. Looking for something on dinosaurs? space? the Vikings? weird science experiments? She's got 'em. Some of the tomes in her collection are these really old books you can't find these days - especially ones about gender - like a classic called "What is a Boy? What is a Girl?' which features really nice black and white photographs and explains that boys can cry, cuddle baby dolls, etc., and girls can be strong and have really short hair. We love reading that one too.

My mother also has a great eye - recently she brought home a second-hand book for us that she found at a shop in Manhattan. It's called The Cats in Krasinski Square (By Karen Hesse) and takes place in Warsaw in 1942. It features a brave young girl who becomes part of the Jewish resistance. What a marvelous, inspiring story.

So in this month of reading and women, I'd like to say - thanks Mom. For taking me to the International Women's Day March in Manhattan many years ago, and for always reading to us, filling the house with art books and poetry, and reading with your granddaugher.

1 comment:

  1. Do me a favor and ask your mom if she remembers a book about a girl that loves to dance living in Germany during the war who actually becomes a Young Nazi for a little while and then realizes just what it's all about. I read it during my childhood in the '80's and I can't remember the name of it, and I would LOVE to find it again!