Twice in the past week, on two separate occasions, with completely different groups of people, I have overheard a mother talking about how her daughter had wanted a doll (one was an American Girl, the other non-specified) for her birthday. Both these mothers had daughters somewhere in the 4-7 range. Both mothers were discussing how they had bought their daughter something else because they didn’t want to get them hooked on that “girly stuff.”
Like how to gently hold and take care of a baby? Like how to put on clothes and do buttons and zippers and comb hair? That “girly stuff”?
This song keeps bouncing around in my head:
But now nobody can have a doll–boys or girls.
I’ve been running into several similar posts in the children’s lit blogosphere. Posts about quality books for girls, books that empower them, make them strong, teach them to be leaders.
I’m all for that. And I’d encourage you to check out this wonderful post by author Kirby Larson about why she will no longer write about “strong girls.” It’s perfect.
But you wanna hear my dirty little secret? Here’s the book my 6yo daughter is currently reading to herself:
It’s about FAIRIES.
This is not female empowerment. This is not STEM-based. This is not about girls overcoming hurdles.
It’s about a pink, sparkly, fairy. And it gets worse. There’s more. A whole series, in fact.
Yep. She’s read more of them.
You know why?
Let me back up to an important sentence:
Here’s the book my 6yo daughter is currently reading to herself
My kindergartener, my new reader, loves these chapter books, and she loves that she can read them all by herself. She looks for the fairies that have the same names as her friends, and those are the ones she picks. Is it the most effective way of selecting a book. Eh. Maybe not. Depends who you ask. But it’s her way, and she’s so pleased when she brings another one home.
Why on earth would I want to shatter that excitement because it’s a sparkly, pink, fairy book?
Can we stop the shaming? Can we stop keeping a child from enjoying a book because we think it’s fluffy and insubstantial? Can we stop categorizing “boy books” and “girl books” and just let them read whatever it is they want?
Are there books I want her to read, characters I want her to meet, favorites I want her to enjoy? Of course there are. And we read those, too, as read alouds. More than once, she’s had me read something to her and then asked for another book in the series, or by that same author. It’s my way of booktalking to my independent reader.
You know what else has happened? I’ve read aloud (or tried to) a book that I think is great…and she’s completely bored by it. While that sometimes bruises my ego, it’s also fine, and I get over it, because she’s an independent reader. An independent reader who likes fairies, princesses, robots, toast-loving pigs, and non-fiction about any kind of wildlife.
I may be biased, but I think she’s doing just fine.
So let’s let them be independent. Let’s let them read whatever they want, without our adult judgement getting in their way.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go brush off my Babysitter’s Club collection.
I know she’s going to love them.
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