|photo from dreamstime.com|
Weekly Trip to the Library
I make a very conscious effort to allow the kids in my care to play with any toy they want to and to avoid creating strict gender roles. I want the girls to be independent and strong and encourage them to play sports. I want to encourage the boys to be loving and friendly and willing to play with dolls and with housekeeping toys as well. Despite my determined efforts, the boys and girls I care for often seem to be instinctively drawn to gender specific toys, games, and even books.
At the library, the girls I care for seem to pick out every book with a cover that is pink and glittery. They also love reading about friendships, romances, and relationship drama in life at home and at school. The boys in my care seem drawn to more science fiction and high action books and prefer shorter, reading materials like age appropriate short books, magazines, graphic novels, and comic books.
Since boys and girls read differently I don’t often force them to share reading materials, but I do make a conscious effort to encourage them to read some books outside of their comfort zone.
That’s why I love this list of novels from KJ Dell’Antonia that both boys and girls can love. The list and the author’s reviews can be found on this parenting blog at nytimes.com. Here are KJ Dell’Antonia’s recommendations for novels both girls and boys can love:
Swallows and Amazons By Arthur Ransome
The Swallows and Amazons series is a series of 12 children’s books English author Author Ransome. The 12 books involve adventures by groups of children almost all during the school holidays and mostly in England and Scotland, between the two World Wars. It’s a great series for kids and adults but typically recommended for kids in grades three- to six. The four Walker siblings, decide to go camping on a small island, sailing their boat Swallow there and pretending they’re real seafarers. There’s evidence though that they aren’t the first visitors to Wild Cat Island, which is confirmed when two “pirate” sisters show up (the Amazons, named after their boat) and challenge the Swallows to a contest for leadership of the group of children. Anyone captivated by the world of adventure and imagination will love this books series.
For teenagers, this is one of the great science fiction writers of all time that both boys and girls will love. Anne McCaffrey’s Pern is one of the most memorable worlds in science fiction and fantasy. Humans and their flying dragon companions live in fear of thread, a caustic, deadly material that falls sporadically from space. But when the thread doesn’t fall for a long time, people become complacent, forgetting that it is the brave dragonriders who can save them from the periodic threat. But when the thread falls, human and dragon heroes must fight the scourge. This edition encompasses the first three unforgettable novels of McCaffrey’s epic series: Dragonflight, Dragonquest, and The White Dragon.
The Saturdays By Elizabeth Enright
Tired of wasting Saturdays doing nothing but wishing for larger allowances, the four Melendys jump at Randy’s idea to start the Independent Saturday Afternoon Adventure Club (I.S.A.A.C.). If they pool their resources and take turns spending the whole amount, they can each have at least one memorable Saturday afternoon of their own. Before long, I.S.A.A.C. is in operation and every Saturday is definitely one to remember. All four books in the Melendy series follow four siblings (later, five) who adventure through the city, then move to the country for biking, hiking and enviable outdoor freedom during and around the Second World War. It’s a great series for kids in sixth to eigth grade.
Summer has a magic all its own in Elizabeth Enright’s beloved stories about two children and their discovery of a ghostly lakeside resort. Cousins spending a summer together in the country discover a dilapidated collection of houses around a lake turned to swamp. This series is recommended for kids in third to fifth grade.
Half Magic By Edward Eager
Since Half Magic first hit bookshelves in 1954, Edward Eager’s tales of magic have become beloved classics. Now four cherished stories by Edward Eager about vacationing cousins who stumble into magical doings and whimsical adventures are available in updated hardcover and paperback formats. The original lively illustrations by N. M. Bodecker have been retained, but eye-catching new cover art by Kate Greenaway Medalist Quentin Blake gives these classics a fresh, contemporary look for a whole new generation. This book series is highly recommend for children in sixth to eight grade.
The Chronicles of Narnia By C.S. Lewis
If you haven’t read this classic series by C.S. Lewis do it now! It includes epic battles between good and evil, fantastic creatures, betrayals, heroic deeds, and friendships won and lost all come together in this unforgettable world, which has been enchanting readers of all ages for over 60-years. The high action movies based on the books are great as well. This is a great series for kids in third to seventh grades. But, I must admit, as an adult I love reading these books.
A Wrinkle in Time By Madeleine L’Engle
Everything is wrong in Meg Murray’s life. In school, she’s been dropped down to the lowest section of her grade. She’s teased about her five-year-old brother, Charles Wallace, who everyone mistakenly thinks is dumb. Not to mention that Meg wears braces and glasses and has mouse-brown hair. KJ Dell’Antonia writes, “Gender does play a big role here, with the characters struggling with living up to, or failing, society’s perception of what it should be to be a boy or a girl, but the characters transcend their roles and by the end, and throughout the series, many children will see parts of themselves in both male and female characters.” My charge’s started reading this book in fourth grade and is typically recommended for students up to eighth grade.
Five Children and It By E. Nesbit
KJ Dell’Antonia explains, “This is a rollicking, deeply old-fashioned, novel-length exploration of the phrase “be careful what you wish for.” It certainly doesn’t transcend gender — boys and girls are locked in their turn of the century roles and clothes — but they adventure in equal measure for a story anyone can enjoy, albeit with very little emotional connection to the character. Pure fun (although reading-aloud parents should be prepared to wince at stereotypes and racism consistent with the era).” Children in third to fifth grade are likely to love this book.
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler By E.L. Konigsburg
If you care for kids in third to seventh grade you should encourage them to read this book. KJ Dell’Antonia says, “This story of a sister and brother who run away to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art is the reason that a generation of children spend half their time at museums trying to figure out where they’ll hide at closing time and coveting the cash in the fountain.”
Parenting Blog NY Times
Follow KJ Dell’Antonia on Twitter at @KJDellAntonia or find her on Facebook and Google+.