Why I want my sons to read books about girls

Are You There God?  It’s Me, Margaret.
By: Judy Blume
My Rating: Five out of Five Stars

I’m a dad.  I want my sons to read books about girls.

When I was eleven, I read “Are you there God? It’s me Margaret”.

I remember the cover:

Are you there God It's me Margaret

I remember my favorite quote:

We must–we must–we must increase our bust!

And I remember very strong feelings of empathy towards girls.

Crushing on a boy. (Girls do that too?)  Wishing her body would grow (Girls think that?)  Hiding in the closet to practicing with the belt that would hold her pad in place (Wait…what?!)

BTW, today’s edition has been updated–no belts!

Margaret taught me about girls…what they worry about, what they go through, what they think.  For 150 pages, I stepped out of my 11-year-old boy shoes and put on some 11-year-old girl shoes.

  • Margaret taught me empathy
  • Margaret gave me perspective
  • Margaret empowered me to understand
  • Margaret helped me see girls as people, not as objects
  • Margaret showed me boys and girls have common concerns

Honestly, Margaret changed my life.  Bless you Judy Blume.

Today, as a reading advocate, I am often asked for book recommendations by gender…a list of boy books or a list of girl books.  I totally get it.  But I won’t do it.

I had to hide when I read about Margaret.  I loved The Hardy Boys and wanted to read Nancy Drew, but never did because I was too embarrassed.  Parents want their kids to read, but boys don’t want to read books that are “for girls” and girls don’t want to read books that are “for boys.”

Well, that’s dumb.  When we assign genders to books, we are deny our children the opportunity to learn empathy.

Shannon Hale, author of The Princess Academy and The Books of Bayern, talks about this much better than I do over here: https://t.co/ee2JmWhgcC

Stories make us human. We form bonds by swapping personal stories with others, and reading fiction is a deeply immersive exercise in empathy.

So, what happens to a culture that encourages girls to read books about boys but shoos boys away from reading books about girls?

What happens to a boy who is taught he should be ashamed of reading a book about a girl? For feeling empathy for a girl? For trying to understand how she feels? For caring about her? What kind of a man does that boy grow up to be?

The bias against boys reading about girls runs so deep, it can feel daunting to try to change it. But change can start with a simple preposition swap: When talking to young readers, we can communicate that a book is about girls without prescribing that it’s for girls.

My recommendations for boys will always be the same as my recommend for girls.  And I’ve been following Shannon Hales advice long before knew it was her advice…a book can be about a girl without being for a girl.

So, why do I want my boys to read books about girls?

Because reading books about girls will make them better boys.

Boys who see girls as people, not as objects.

Boys who understand the differences between boys and girls = different but equal, not different but better.

Boys who love their mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters.

Boys who treat girls with respect and admiration.

Boys who know girls are smart and capable of anything.

Boys who champion and advocate for girls.

Boys who will grow up to be men who will teach their kids to read books about girls.

A couple content notes about Are you there God? It’s me Margaret.  The girls talk about Playboy magazine twice and look at a Playboy magazine once.  They play an 11-year-old version of spin the bottle and two minutes in the closet at a party.  Religion is a key plot point.  Best for 11 and up.

Also, if you’re interested in another book that will inspire empathy in your son and daughter, give The Swap by Megan Shull a try.

Happy Reading!

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