THE SEVENTH GRADE PROBLEM
Something happened to my seventh grade daughter the other day and I can’t stop thinking about it.
The setting: Honors English
The main idea: The teacher offers a choice of four different books for classroom book clubs.
The conflict: Girls and boys and the books they choose in public vs. private.
Are you intrigued? Then let me tell you what happened. My girl, CJ, has always been a voracious reader. We read together. She still asks me to “snead”, which has long been our word for snuggle+read. We talk about books all the time. She’s only a little impressed that I’m an author. She was MOST impressed when I had the privilege of getting her a signed copy of Jerry Spinelli’s MANIAC MAGEE. In any case, we talk about books all the time.
One of the books this time around was THE WEDNESDAY WARS by Gary Schmidt. Another was WALK TWO MOONS by Sharon Creech. CJ knows that I love each of these books, though she’d never read either one. Being Gary Schmidt’s number one fan myself, I’ve always suggested she read THE WEDNESDAY WARS. A lot. Maybe “suggested” isn’t the right word. Maybe leaving it on her bedroom floor all the time is more accurate. CJ initially was all set to pick that book and go join that book club. But, oh no, that book club was made up of, wait for it…wait for it…all BOYS. Boys! Boys who, in CJ’s own words, “are so completely weird…what happened to them since fifth grade is shocking.”
So what’s a young seventh grade girl to do?
She quickly put Schmidt’s book aside and went for the safer choice: WALK TWO MOONS. Now, either book is a wonderful read. Hooray to the teacher for sharing these books! But this scenario gives me pause as a writer of books with both boy and girl protagonists. Are girls and boys missing out on great reads because it would be mortifying if they were the “only” in the group? If the perception of one book or the other is “too girl” or “too boy”?
I suspect the answer is YES.
In the end, I know CJ will read THE WEDNESDAY WARS on her own. We will snead it together. But the other girls? They might miss out. And the boys will miss out on WALK TWO MOONS. Naturally, there are books that speak to different kids and genders. And I love that there are so many dedicated teachers out there creating book clubs and book discussions. I suppose I’ve realized CJ and her peers will sometimes choose books publicly and privately. Maybe that has always been the case since the invention of seventh graders.
Find out more at www.karenharringtonbooks.com or follow her on Twitter @KA_Harrington.