Boy book, girl book… or just a book?

So, the little one and I were perusing Halloween costumes last night. (I’d like to say that I’m one of those super crafty, Pinterest-moms who can fashion a fairy outfit from a roll of tulle, some glitter, and two-sided tape. But, no… I’d probably end up taping the kid to the dog, covering myself in glitter, and hot-glue gunning my fingers together. I much prefer to get my costumes the old-fashioned way — direct from Amazon Prime.)

Anyway, the little one excitedly tells me she wants to dress up in a Minecraft costume this year, and I think — yay! That should be easy, right? I mean, every kid under the age of ten is pretty much obsessed with the ubiquitous computer block game. I figure there have to be a ton of costume choices available.

And there were! Tons of choices! For boys…

Yes, no matter how hard we searched, little one and I couldn’t find a girl’s Minecraft costume. Anywhere. Lots of “Steves” and “Creepers.” But no girl characters. At all. Surprising — and kind of sad — considering half of the Minecraft players out there are most certainly girls. I can only guess that someone determined Minecraft=video/computer game=”boy” thing, so why bother with a girl costume?

This got me thinking about books (as things often do), and the gender assumptions we make about the kids who read them. I’ve often heard it said that boys are reluctant readers who need shorter, more action-packed stories to stay engaged. Girls, on the other hand, will allegedly read across genres and can make it through longer, more complex stories. (Ironically, this theory hasn’t held true in my own highly un-scientific sample of two — ie, the children who live in my house. My son has always been an avid reader who can become engrossed in a book for hours, while my daughter prefers drawing and watching videos to reading).

Which makes me wonder — are we doing our kids a disservice when we make such broad assumptions about what boys and girls will read/play with/dress up as for Halloween? If so, what can we do better? Is it a matter of just removing labels, like at Disney and Target? Is it ensuring that books are marketed to all children — not just by gender — as this nationwide campaign in the UK advocates? Or is it something deeper/different?

Tell me, what do you think? Should there be boy books? Girl books? Or just books? Share your thoughts in the comments below… right now, I’ve got a Minecraft costume to make. (And sorry, if you don’t hear back from me right away, it’s because my fingers are glued shut…)

Jan Gangsei
  1. I feel there should be just books. You can have a boy or girl protagonist, but that doesn’t mean it should be for only girls or for only boys. It should be for both. An example of this is the Harry Potter book series, or the Lightning thief series. I think kids have moved on from this type of old fashoned thinking, and as writers, we should move on too. As to the cover issue, we can do a more generalized cover art so kids are not embarrased to be reading our stories/books.

  2. I see boys becoming more open minded with their book choices when they get to high school. As a middle grade educator though I always find girls more interested in reading. The gap is never the same with some years much narrower than others. Another observation: girls tend to read book jackets – boys focus on the cover. Maybe we just need to remove the book jacket and replace it with a hook or blurb for the story.

  3. I couldn’t agree more. The world has been genderized, and it’s not good for anyone. Thanks for the post.

  4. I wish there were just “books”, but at some age (my kid included) they worry about the cover and what their friends will think if they’re reading a book with a girl/boy on the cover. Although, when prompted they know that they shouldn’t judge a book by the cover. It’s frustrating, especially when I know it is a book that would be enjoyed.