Tuesday, 22 April 2014

So Jonathon Emmett thinks

that female writers, agents and publishers have too much influence over what boys read and it is putting boys off reading does he?
I believe this debate has been flying around the internet for some time now but I only caught up properly with it this morning. (All right I know I should have done it sooner but other things happened.)
I prowled off to have a look at Mr Emmett's own website. Yes, quite a prolific writer for younger children. Yes, a very "politically correct" message. Yes, books like "The Princess and the Pig" are borrowed from libraries. (Question there - who chooses the reading matter for small children in libraries, the child or the adult?) And yes, children probably do enjoy them - and Captain Comet.
But is he right about those who form part of the 51% of humans having too much influence over the other 49%. Absolutely not!
Boys will read books about girls just as girls will read books about boys.
Mr Emmett suggests that boys would prefer to read about pirates, battles, fighting and the like. In doing so he seems to be implying that only males can write about these things. Is that really the case?I doubt it.
Surely he is not also suggesting that boys prefer to read about violence? My experience suggests otherwise. They are also - in my experience - happy to read about the genuinely funny, the fantastic, nature, sport, mysteries, family and friendship and adventure - and many other things as well.
And is there something wrong with a woman writing a book like "Captain Beastlie's Pirate Party"? Does Mr Emmett believe that Lucy Coats is not qualified to write about such wonderful things?
It also seems to me that there are books about boys - even about grown men - in children's literature. Margaret Wild's "Mr Nick's Knitting" is about a man who, shock and horror, knits! It was one of the favourite books in my time in schools - the children requested it over and over again. Yes, written by a woman - but it is about a man doing something that is now generally seen as an occupation for women. 
Move up a few years and one of the great "coming of age" stories to win the Carnegie Medal was "Josh" by Ivan Southall. Josh is very definitely an adolescent male. There are many more books like that out there - read by males and females alike.
What is more Mr Emmett ignores the fact that it is still women who do most of the nurturing of the very young and young. Women still outnumber men in the teaching of young children - both at home and elsewhere. I don't think that is going to change anytime soon - and I am not sure it should.
I don't think I want boys to be given books about fighting, battles and male "violence" just because someone believes that is what boys want to read about. We don't need to encourage that. What we surely need to encourage is the reading of good writing which stimulates their imagination, which adds to their experience of the human condition and makes them more aware of all aspects of life.
I will never get the opportunity to debate this with Mr Emmett but I think he is wrong. There is plenty of "maleness" out there - and male writers still dominate adult literature.
If you are a writer reading this - please tell me what you think!


Helen Devries said...

As a child, helped and encouraged by librarians, I read a variety of books aimed at children...aimed at children in general, not at boys or girls

catdownunder said...

I think that is what I read too Helen - I can't remember thinking "this is for girls" or "this is for boys"!