Children’s book author Jonathan Emmett says that “boys are being deterred from reading because the ‘gatekeepers’ to children’s literature are mostly women.” The gatekeepers are editors, publishers, librarians, judges and reviewers of children’s books.
According to an article in The Times of London that is summarized on a more accessible page at Publishing Perspectives, he believes that there isn’t enough boy-friendly elements in children’s books. I’m honestly not sure what books he’s been looking at because he then goes on to name some pretty big themes in children’s titles: “battling pirate ships” and “technical details about spaceships.”
He does have some support from a couple of female authors who incongruously to the very claim of the author write very boy-friendly titles. And he has done his research. Out of 400 reviews in five British newspapers, less than 20% of the picture book reviews were written by men and less than a third of the fiction reviews. That compares to 47% of the picture books being written by men and 41% of the children’s books.
Now wait. So the claim is that the powerful cadre of women who control publishing, like LIBRARIANS as an example, are using the reviews that they write to weed out the boy friendly titles? Or is the claim that the female publishers are controlling the writing of the male authors and making sure that they are not filled with swords, battles, dragons, pirates, etc.
As a children’s librarian, I worked hard to get titles children love into the right hands. If a boy or girl, because this is even more of that gender-focus that doesn’t help anything in our culture, comes in and asks for pirate books, I merrily get them those books. Books into hands. That’s all I want to manage.
But perhaps the most disgusting part of logical extension of the author’s claim is that we as women are out to emasculate male children by withholding books they would prefer to read. Producing books that reflect a softened, feminized version of our world, no battling pirates, no technical information, no baddies smoking, few if any baddies at all. What misogynistic crap!
Women are writing some of the most captivating and violent books for children and teens.
Women are the ones in the low-paying jobs of teacher and librarian who get books into the hands of children.
Women are the ones who take the time to listen to the small voices of children and pick those marvelous Captain Underpants books off the shelves for them among many others.
Women are worried about the gender gap in reading and are having conversations about how best to collect books in our libraries that boys (and non-reading girls) will enjoy.
Women, professionally and as moms and grandmothers, are powerful, I agree with Mr. Emmett about that. It is our power that will help solve this issue, not perpetuate it.