It’s the weekend.
So all you non-weekend working weirdos give me a whoa! Give me a yay! Give me large bar of chocolate and a bucket of enthusiasm.
Yeah, I work weekends. I am one of the scary people who looks forward to Mondays with great intensity. And Saturday’s are often busy with enquiries, oodles of people, lots of families and more returns than you can shake a stick at. At the end of the day you feel as if everyone in Wellington came in to return at least 2 books, asked for something that was not available or published yet, queried why they had fines for lost books and then bought some recycling bags (the purchase of rubbish and recycling bags is a popular event at our library).
This morning, while contemplating what I would blog about today, I concluded a couple of things:
- I should do less thinking about blogging and more actual studying.
- It is so much easier to write about something you get het up about (a good technical term het although when I went off and Googled it as WordPress has given me a little underline saying it is incorrectly spelt I discovered it is short for heterosexual and an anagram for Holocaust educational trust but fortunately Merriam-Webster assures me that het up has been used since 1909 to mean highly excited so I will keep using it).
- I should eat better and do more exercise (I ate a piece of nutella toast while typing this).
- I also got side tracked in thinking about an interesting podcast episode I listened to this morning about algorithmic pricing of books (where I heard about a book on fly genetics that was being sold for a whopping US$23,698,655.93 if you need more details feel free to head to http://www.michaeleisen.org/blog/?p=358 or listen to episode two of the boring talks)
- I finally returned to contemplating the library and the blog.
- And then promptly got distracted by email.
Fortunately this lead me to read an article about male versus female characters (in this blog for my own sanity levels I am not even go near non-binary and gender fluidity issues- I don’t have all day to find ways not to offend and you don’t have all day reading how I tip toe around gender) in children’s books.
Stuff published an article (It’s a question of balance) about two different schools, whose children had different perspectives on whether girls liked to read books with female characters and males vice versa. One child commented “Boys think we can only be mums and sisters in books” while the boys in that class scoffed at the notion that girls went on adventures. And across town one wise 11 year-old young man said that they didn’t mind if a male or female protagonists took the lead in a book and that they have lots of “different types of people” at their school, “we are interested in lots of different things”.
Apparently Nielsen had done a study into children’s literature and found that in 2017, 13% of NZ written/created books had a female-only main character, 53% were male-lead, 22% were a mix of genders and the remaining 12% had books where gender did not play a role.
When I looked across the top borrowings for February at this library (which is one of the larger branch libraries in Wellington) I can see that in the top 50 borrowed books, 15 had a female author, 32 had male protagonists, 8 had female leads, 8 had mixed leads (although Enid Blyton’s Anne should probably earn minus points for being quite so “jolly hockey sticks, I will make some sandwiches and do the dishes” insipid).
I’ll be honest a lot of these studies make me wince because I am a parent of a teenage boy and he feels that society and media are picking on him. Well, not him in particular but the young men.
But I read the reports that point out that in the top 100 selling books (in the UK) twice as many of speaking characters were male (thanks to the Guardian for their thought provoking piece on this Must monsters be male?). So I try and explain why this stuff gets people riled, I explain that the promotion of females in media does not need to be at the cost of males and I reiterate that males should not be the fall guy for every bad thing that befalls society. Not only can our girls and woman do anything but so can our boys and men.
So what should we, information professionals (and information amateurs such as myself do)? I guess we need to keep pushing a mix of material to our readers- we don’t need to just suggest Zac Power to boys and Billie B Brown to girls. We need to make sure that we don’t presume that all girls just want fairies and glitter-based stories (certainly parents often don’t want the dreaded Daisy Meadows fairy series!), they want adventures (I personally loved all the Willard Price books, Encyclopedia Brown, and the Hardy Boys when I was a young voracious reader), action and intrigue. And boys can stop being tarred with the reluctant reader brush and be handed books that are simply one-dimensional books about a ‘boy’ subject (I am looking at you Minecraft character books). We need to keep on encouraging children to try new authors, new genres, new books- give graphic novels a go, try some non-fiction on for size.
Here’s to the next generation of excited readers finding their new favourite tales
Even if that is any of these books: