|By Copyright by Fritz W. Guerin, St. Louis. [Public domain]|
Over the past month or so I have been paying more attention than usual to our collection, gender and circulation. I first started off simply with a post-it and two columns. Each time a student would check out a book, I would mark off the column with the gender identification. Every day the results would be similar. The boys and girls in my school check out a similar amount of books.
I then decided to utilize the catalog software. (Anyone who knows me knows that I *love* running statistics!) I started off looking at the top ten patrons (those with the highest number of check outs) for the month, then I ran it back to the last 9 months of the school year. The results? Out of the top 10 patrons, 7 of them are boys. Open the stats up to the top 50 patrons and the gender mix gets closer - 26 girls and 24 boys make up our top 50.
I have many thoughts about the why of this. We have 4 librarians shepherding our students through their years at school. Our early childhood librarian is a man, so one of the students first looks at what a reader looks like is Jesse. We are very mindful about the books we share with our students, and we try incredibly hard to make sure there is a variety with characters who are diverse in all sorts of ways. When we find stereotypes, we talk about them with the students. We don't go in for the "Girl's Read" "Guys Read" variety of booklists or book talks. In fact, two of my favorite anecdotes about assumptions helped make me more aware of my own gender bias after being steeped in this girls vs boys culture my whole life. We have a boy who is a super reader, and he mostly (to my knowledge) was a reader of graphic novels. He pretty much read everything we had for his age group by the time he was done with 4th grade. At the end of the year, I ask the students to reflect and I ask them their favorite title. His favorite title of all time? The Penderwicks by Birdsall. We also had a group of middle school boys who quietly came into the library and methodically checked out every single Clique book. They didn't hide them, read them out in the open, and felt no shame along the way.
It's really up to the adults in the room to set the tone and fight against the pink and blue tide. Create a reading culture, make sure you are not perpetuating the stereotype by handing boys sports books and girls friendship books. Highlight books that get outside of the gender box. Remember, there are no such thing as boy books and girl books, no matter what some marketing departments might say.