Gender pressures

C has just started reading chapter books. Before I started frequenting parenting blogs (and my children were well before pre-reading), I didn’t think of that as a milestone – I certainly don’t remember that milestone in my own life.

But now, the fact that C can disappear for half an hour and sit quietly with a book he is desperate to get to the end of is thrilling me no end. The slight quirk in this momentous voyage of discovery is that, rather than the Roald Dahl we’ve been trying him on every now and again for the last six months, the books that got him hooked were the Rainbow Magic series. It doesn’t bother me so much that they are clearly quickly written pot boilers with one plot between the 46 (!) of them. I read enough Enid Blyton in my day that I know graduation is possible. But E is a bit worried that C might have a hard time in the playground for liking such a girly book.

A while ago, Jody from Raising WEG had a post about gender reinforcement. In her kids preschool, boys get pushed down the boys’ toys path much more than girls do. I haven’t noticed that, really, with my two boys, but I suspect it is because C is fairly oblivious to social pressures. Not necessarily a good thing, but he’s not a great listener, so someone teasing him will often be frustrated by C not even noticing what’s going on.

Anyway, since he discovered the Rainbow Magic books because one of his (female) classmates brought one to school, and his (female) friend from around the corner also loves them, I’m hoping it’ll just make C more popular with the girls, and not damage his standing with the boys in his class.

It’s been quite amazing to watch his class separate into boys and girls this year. They usually have about 10 minutes before the bell goes in the morning, and when I occasionally take C in, there’s a pretty clear gender divide. They might talk to someone of the opposite sex if the two parents are talking, so proximity comes into play, but generally its a smooth separation.

  5 comments for “Gender pressures

  1. susoz
    August 15, 2006 at 10:27 pm

    I hand’t even noticed the existence of the Rainbow Magic books until O went to a girl’s birthday party early this year and she was given some of them as a present. After that I began to notice them in bookshops and see girls reading them. But O has never read one (to my knowledge). He’s currently deeply into the Star Wars books. It’s something that makes me realise what a different world the boys and girls in his class inhabit (and consequently, their parents, too.) On the other hand, most of the birthday parties he attends are still mixed, though heavily weighted towards the gender of the party-giver. Although all his closest and ‘realest’ friends are boys, O is friends with some girls and has had them on playdates to our house and vice versa.
    Wendy Harmer’s fairy books (Pearlie) are a good read.

  2. August 16, 2006 at 9:51 am

    That’s interesting (and hallelujah for C–I know I was ecstatic when the Bee read a chapter book for the first time!). I’ve never worried about gender issues with books, only toys. That might be a girl-boy thing though–I read somewhere that more girls are comfortable reading books with a boy as the central character than vice versa.

  3. August 18, 2006 at 9:55 pm

    My oldest is about to start school here in Germany and begin the reading journey too. I can’t wait for her to experience the joy I have always had in reading. We have read to all our kids from birth, so she can’t wait either. Loved your post about Rainbow Magic: my two girls are addicted, even though I find them intensely irritating. But you’re right they are pot-boilers which is why kids love them. I think it’s great that you have such a wonderful little non-sexist for a son. My youngest is a boy and is obviously very exposed to girls’s stuff: he particularly likes flinging one of his sisters’ frilly nighties over his head for effect. Hopefully he too will turn out to be a non-sexist, with a good understanding of women!

  4. August 29, 2006 at 8:17 am

    My 9-month-old boy, who thinks books are for hammering madly against hard surfaces, was very attracted to the book That’s Not My Fairy. But I didn’t buy it for him because I knew my husband would be horrified. I wish I could have had the courage to. Maybe I’ll borrow it from the library and see what reaction it gets. Before this baby was born I was adamant that boys and girls were essentially the same. Now I’ve changed my mind. Yesterday, after my back was turned for one minute, I found a curious small person squealing, his head in a bucket of toy cars, a pair of little fat legs waggling out of the end. His teddy bear and doll sat there ignored.

  5. August 29, 2006 at 7:45 pm

    Thanks for the comment – as the mother of two boys, I change my mind regularly on how much of their behaviour is nurture rather than nature.

Comments are closed.