The chat over at Ask Moxie has me feeling like a simpleton.
It started out simply (ha ha) enough, with Moxie's review of a book called The Dangerous Book for Boys. Sounds like a fun book, from what I've read at Moxie and other sources. Some readers got riled up, though, about the fact that there's no dangerous book for girls. So a discussion started up about what would be in the companion book for girls. At the same time, readers started making suggested reading lists for girls and boys and discussing what life skills girls and boys need to acquire as they grow up.
Guess what? A lot of the stuff that people thought should be in the book for girls is stuff that's in the book for boys! And many of the books on the suggested reading lists are crossovers, too, as are the life skills.
Here's why I feel like a simpleton. Why have two different books at all? And why two separate reading and life skills lists?
I do think there are differences between boys and girls. But at the same time, I feel like the cool, "dangerous" things in the Dangerous Book for Boys would be of interest to many girls. And at the same time, I think anything that is not in a boys' book that would be included in a girls' book would be of interest to both sexes. I think much of it comes down to individual differences between kids, not necessarily gender. As for what kids should read and learn as they grow up, I think that's all basically the same.
That said, having boy/girl twins makes for fascinating observations on the differences between the sexes. As it would happen, I have a very verbal girl and a very physical boy, very stereotypical sex-based differences. And while they both love to play with the same toys, they often do so in very different ways. Maddie is an inspector. She looks at everything at close range, turns things over and around, and takes her time with things. She can sit for quite a while with a shape sorter, for example, just inspecting each piece, talking talking talking as she does so, and taking them in and out of the container. Riley, on the other hand, will spend just as much time with the shape sorter, but he starts by upending it, kicking the pieces around, waving the container in the air, shouting a bit, banging pieces together, and then abandoning ship. He's more reckless, less measured. Again, stereotypical differences.
But are these truly boy/girl differences? Or are they just Riley and Maddie differences? So hard to say. It will be interesting to see how these differences and others come to play as the twins get older.
The bottom line is that I feel like I belong in the camp with Moxie's readers who wonder why there isn't just a Dangerous Book for Kids. I don't feel like it's bad that the book was written for boys, but at the same time, I don't really see the point.
As for suggested reading lists that are divided by gender. That's just silly to me, even bad. I know that many boys especially are struggling readers and that it can be hard to find books and genres that appeal to them. A list of "boy books" might make reading seem more cool to them. But good children's literature is good children's literature. Compile a big list of that with lots of genres and styles represented and let boys and girls find something that appeals. I think dividing book lists by "girl" and "boy" sends a unneeded message. The Dangerous Book for Boys might belong on that list, and some girls might read it. All the better for them. And some boys may be enamored of Little House on the Prairie. Awesome.
Same thing on life skills. We should all know how to cook and change a tire and tie a necktie and tell a story. Even if some of those skills will be more used by a boy than a girl or vice versa, that doesn't mean that it's not good life knowledge to have.
Am I oversimplifying?