First, I had two dads with their little ones join us today. I love it when dads come–and before dads leave, they find out why it’s so wonderful when they can come.
Children need to see men reading and they need to have men read to them. This communicates to children, especially boys, that reading is a “guy thing.” Modeling and especially gender modeling is critical in from age 4ish-6ish. That’s when boys and girls are trying to sort out what a woman is, what a man is, how do I tell them apart, and how do I look and act like the one I am.
This starts out as not much more than the same process they went through to learn the differences between dogs and cats. They set up in their minds, “Dogs have four legs, are furry, and bark.” Then one day they see a cat, call it a cat, and then hear it meow! Their dog category now has to change; they have to develop a cat category as well.
This is why you’ll hear kids claim that “all women are mommies and all men are daddies” or “all girls wear dresses, tractors can only be driven by men,–and only mommies and teachers read books.”
The solution? Actions speak louder than words. We have to show them. They need to find what works for them at this age for “being a girl” or “being a boy.” For some girls, that means wearing only pink, for some boys only wearing overalls. That’s what they need to be who they are at this age.
But at the same time, they need chances to see the big wide, wonderful world–and all the marvelous ways men and women live in it, quite comfortably. Like daddies playing at Toddler Time. 🙂
Second, afterwards I looked up from a desk to see a 20 month old girl, reading! She had climbed up into a big person chair near the front desk, reached to the top of a small display shelf, and taken down a paperback of Sisters Grimm (older juvi novel). There she sat, pacifier in mouth, tiny pigtails on top of her head, turning page after page, quite contentedly.
That girl’s parents ROCK! She knows what books are about!
This stuff works, guys! Read on!