The world has changed since I was a girl. I used to believe that our society placed too much pressure on girls and not enough on boys. When I was younger I felt like I had to be strong in a dress and pretty in pants. I had to follow all of the rules or ruin my reputation but boys could do whatever they wanted. This pressure didn’t originate with my parents, it just felt like a tangible reality to me. As a grew I saw that wasn’t always true. It wasn’t all boys that were free. It was just the sporty, rich, white kids who grew up fairly free of society’s constant micro-corrections.
I still argue that our society places too much pressure on girls. New books and movies are coming out all of the time that feature the myriad of different ways to be a “girl.” I think we have all seen this book prominently displayed.
This is a great book. But, my concern is that this book and all of the other inspirational books for girls are still leaving out a major component of equality: boys. All of these books let girls know that it is ok to be different – to be more than “pretty.” Meanwhile, for most of child hood boys had two choices: sporty and not-sporty (also known as “cool” and “not cool”).
It still happens. Just take a five to fourteen-year-old boy anywhere with you. The first thing well-intentioned strangers want to know is, “do you plan any sports?” I know they are just trying to make a connection with the kid, but it is always awkward when the response is, “no, no sports for me.” The whole conversation falls to a deafening silence.
This is why I was enormously pleased to find Stories for Boys Who Dare to be Different, True Tales of Amazing Boys Who Changed The World Without Killing Dragons by Ben Brooks. This books features thirty-seven examples of individuals who don’t fit most pre-determined “manly man” roles. Furthermore, many of them, like Percy Shelly and Daniel Anthony, make a clear connection between how allowing boys to embrace their differences directly supports equality and opportunities for women.
This struck me as wonderful. I believe the more we encourage people to be themselves the more comfortable they are with differences in others. If we can support variety in boys maybe they in turn will naturally accept diversity around them. If boys can be chefs and computer geniuses then women can be CEOs and teachers and everything in between. There is no “normal” way to be successful that is predetermined by your gender.
This lovely illustrated book for middle grade students also features: transgendered people, people with disabilities, kings, nature enthusiasts, NASA astronauts, artists and many more. The people chosen come from all around the world, are all different ages, and represent many people of color. It starts with a boy and shows how their unique perspective changed the world. Each mini-biography is only a page long and is accompanied by an illustration making it easy to read solo or fun to read together.
The more we tell all children that it is a good thing to be themselves, the more we foster that thought across the generations and throughout our society. It isn’t up to just the girls to explore the uniqueness of ourselves or break the mold – many boys have similar struggles. That is why I highly encourage both of these books to be read by both genders. Boys needs to know that strong is pretty just as much as girls need to see how wonderfully diverse boys can be.
Tell me, please!
Have you read either of these books?