I visited the Green Valley Book Fair today. If you’re ever in the Shenandoah Valley and you love books, then you need to visit this amazing place just south of Harrisonburg. I don’t think that I paid more than $5.99 for a book today, and many of the books I purchased were hard-backed versions of well-known titles (Can An Aardvark Bark? and Life were just two of my purchases). Seriously, this place is amazing.
I had a purchase order today and eagerly roamed each aisle. However, as I filled the first of three baskets, I overheard a conversation that made me stop and think. The conversation was between a woman and (I’m assuming) her son. We were standing at the back wall, where I was checking out the Roscoe Riley series to see which books I didn’t have (my fourth grade boys love Roscoe’s antics). Normally, this long line of shelves is a place where I spend a lot of time because there are typically a wide variety of early chapter books. The mother and son were browsing the shelves and the little boy, who was probably around seven or eight years old, picked up a book and eagerly showed it to his mother. I couldn’t make out the title because I wasn’t close enough, but there was a lot of pink on the cover. The mother placed the book back on the shelf and said, “That’s not a boy book” before she herded him on down the aisle, presumably in search of something more appropriate. I stood there, disappointed for the child who found a book that interested him, but was unable to take it home to read because it was a “girl book.”
I thought about all of the books that I read as a child. My parents never restricted my access to books. Now, they did have to remind me to put my book away at the dinner table, but they never told me that I couldn’t read a particular book, and I am so thankful that they trusted me as a reader. I never once heard my parents say, “that’s a boy book” or “that’s a girl book.” When they bought books for me, they thought about what I liked, not some stereotype of what I should like.
In my classroom, I don’t recommend books based on “boy books” or “girl books.” My students often recommend books to each other, and never once have I heard them use the terms “boy books” or “girl books” when making a recommendation. Recently, a fifth grade boy checked Princess in Black out of my classroom library. Boys in my classes have enjoyed the Babymouse series. I have a second grade boy who loves Amelia Bedelia. They want engaging books to read, just like the little boy today.
I continued shopping, but I couldn’t get that little boy out of my mind. I wondered which books he ended up choosing and if he was satisfied with his choices. I really hope that he found something great to read.