Letter to the Editor from Leah Langby, July/August 2012

may2012HBMcov 200x300 Letter to the Editor from Leah Langby, July/August 2012May/June 2012 Horn Book

I want to thank you for publishing the piece by Hilary Rappaport (“On the Rights of Reading and Girls and Boys”). I really appreciated seeing some of my concerns about the gender divide in reading articulated so well. I have examined my biases related to literature and preferences, and have made adjustments in the way I think about them, as a result of the Guys Read movement. I’m glad for that. But I, too, am troubled by the push to further compartmentalize our young people by dividing the world of books into those for boys and those for girls.

I’m a huge fan of Jon Scieszka, but after hearing him speak at ALA in 2005, I was distressed to the point of writing him a letter, excerpted here:

I was troubled by your speech, especially considering that you spoke after a teenage boy who was gutsy enough to talk about how much he loves being in a book club and reading a huge variety of things. Not all boys (or girls, for that matter) fit the very specific gender roles you outlined. Not all boys like hockey, even if your son does. Not all boys are going to be satisfied with books that are pulled into a separate section for guys, and many girls will be less likely to pick up books if they are labeled as “guy” books.

It seems like there must be ways to validate and highlight a variety of reading while not pigeonholing people into behaving a certain way. Libraries have traditionally been a haven for boys who are not your typical “guy guys” (as James Howe puts it), and it makes me cringe to hear someone as charming and well-respected as you are implying that there is only one type of boy.

Please pass on my thanks to Hilary Rappaport for her column!

Leah Langby
Elk Mound, Wisconsin


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  1. Girls and Boys must understand the value of education and family – images of women and girls must be resonibly depicted in books and film/television.

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