Sunday Reflections: Shameful Reading
Outside my house, however, it was always a different story. Being a reader was a thing, and being a brain and a girl was a thing, and then reading the things I was reading was definitely an ISSUE (brought up by a few well-meaning adults), and I was definitely shy… So instead of confrontation (or even covering the books- because they were LIBRARY books and you don’t even bend the PAGES down on library books) I adjusted my reading habits outside. I read the Babysitters Club, and Sweet Valley High series. I read Mary Higgins Clark outside, because that was OK, and I read Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes. Poe was OK because everyone thought he was assigned reading. But nothing too dark or too weird for the high school girl.
It’s extremely similar to what I see happening to my guys. I don’t think that guys don’t like to read- I think they get shamed OUT of it. They start all enthusiastic in picture books. And run towards Diary of Wimpy Kid, Guinness Book of World Records, and others. But then once they hit later elementary/early middle school, it starts to be shameful to be a reader for boys now. You’re supposed to be into gaming and sports or you aren’t manly and upholding your image. If you’re too much into anime and manga you’re a geek, if you read too much sci fi you’re a nerd, and lord help you if you actually *like* an assigned reading like The Outsiders or one of the current YA pick lists. Girls are allowed to be raving over authors like Cassandra Clare and Maureen Johnson and John Green, but if you’re a guy and into them just as much? Being called a “girl” is the nicest thing I’ve heard.
For fear of having other guys catch them, I’ve seen my teens hide books in the magazines and chairs so others won’t catch them reading, I’ve checked things out on the sly and sneak them into their backpacks so that others won’t know they checked them out. I’ve had teens keep books in my office and just chill after school.
Guys like to read- I’ve got a dozen that proved that by reading 35 hours or more over their Winter break in order to spend 13 hours locked in my building overnight. But not when they are made ashamed to read or ashamed of what they’re reading. And this is something we, as teen services specialists, need to work on- because no one deserves to feel ashamed of reading.
Filed under: Flowers in the Attic, Reading, Sunday Reflections, V. C. Andrews
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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