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Primary school sexism in choice of reading books....should I address it?

(14 Posts)
Greythorne Sat 10-Jan-15 09:03:39

We live in France (might be relevant) and DCs go to an English school with Anglophone teachers etc.

Dd is in equivalent of Y4 and has just brought home her new class reader which she will be expected to read over the next 4-5 weeks and every week complete a worksheet on and ultimately write a book report on. So far, so good, we really like the school and she is thriving so it's not a question about academic approaches which I accept might be different to the way Y4 works in the UK.

ANYWAY. The book is "Iron Man" by Ted Hughes. Fantastic book. Read it myself as a child and loved it.

The last book was "Akimbo" by Alexander McCall Smith. Again, good book.

The previous one was "The Chocolate Touch" and the one before that was "Flat Stanley". All good books. All books with male protagonists and no decent female characters.

Individually, they are great, but collectively, I feel they are sending a message that literature happens to boys and that girls just don't figure. I also feel it could be a consequence of the generalized feeling that boys find it harder to get into reading, so the reading list is selected to appeal to boys, with the assumption that girls will just follow along for the ride as usual.

Just mentioned this to my DH who has surprised me by saying I am overthinking.

I feel like there are loads of good books (not Rainbow Fairy derivative stuff) with strong female leads which could provide balance.

Would you raise this with the school?

footallsock Sat 10-Jan-15 09:05:29

Yes. I suspect they have never given it a thought.

Greythorne Sat 10-Jan-15 09:09:45

You might be right, footsllsock but I have a horrible feeling they are deliberately choosing these books to keep the boys on side, which will make it a harder conversation, IYSWIM.

HouseWhereNobodyLives Sat 10-Jan-15 09:17:50

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Greencurtain Sat 10-Jan-15 09:23:14

Absolutely not. Do you want to teach her that books are gendered? My kids have learnt (from school, not me!) that some books are for boys and some are for girls. In actual fact, some of the books have "books for boys" on the front, printed there when the book was published!

The most obvious and straightforward solution is for you to get some books for her which have a female protagonist for her to read at the weekend or whatever. You have influence, use it directly to benefit your dd, not to argue with the school.

Bonsoir Sat 10-Jan-15 09:35:38

Hi Greythorne

This would annoy me too.

FWIW, my DD at EIB had as English class readers (not complete - cannot remember them all):

CE2: Horrid Henry and the Mega-Mean Time Machine (Simon); The Worst Witch (Murphy); The Sandman and the Turtles (Morpurgo)

CM1: The Butterfly Lion (Morpurgo); Censure's Kingdom (Morpurgo); Oliver Twist (abridged) (Dickens); Holes (Sachar); There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom (Sachar)

CM2: Danny the Champion of the World (Dahl); Ottoline Goes to School (Riddell); Hugo Cabret (Selznick). They are going to read The Curious Incident of a Dog in the Night Time and Sophie's World.

Greythorne Sat 10-Jan-15 09:36:28


I specifically did not say they were "boys" books and I don't think they are. I said I think they are good books. But a long list of books with male protagonists and an absence of books with female protagonists seems to be a problem to me. I am not saying I want books with dinosaurs and tractor for boys and fairies and mice for girls.

Greythorne Sat 10-Jan-15 09:39:07

Thanks, good food for thought on that list.

tumbletumble Sat 10-Jan-15 09:41:53

I think you should raise the issue, yes. My DS1 is in a boy heavy class (nearly two thirds boys), but their class reading has had a mixture of male and female protagonists.

Bonsoir Sat 10-Jan-15 09:46:22

Kensuke's Kingdom

Bonsoir Sat 10-Jan-15 09:49:52

Anecdotally, our experience is that the boys have found it harder than the girls to get into reading. At EIB the Bilingual-Native Speaker group (36 DC in total) was split into two levels this year - the upper level is composed of 10 girls and 1 boy!

Greythorne Sat 10-Jan-15 11:06:40

Yes, I think that's what is problematic about this situation.
It may well be that they are trying to boost the boys' interest, which I quite understand, but it is surely wrong to do so at the expense of the girls having books which show strong role models.

JeanneDeMontbaston Sat 10-Jan-15 11:43:45

I don't think you are overthinking. IME - and it may not matter much, and is just one point, but it's worth thinking about - boys who have been allowed or encouraged to read a steady diet of books with male central characters end up with weaker skills in literary criticism. It's not actually good for them.

Bonsoir Sat 10-Jan-15 11:59:03

I think it can be particularly frustrating in situations where you, as the minority language parent, are working particularly hard at your DCs' language skills, to feel that school is not supporting your DC as much as it could.

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