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Monday, February 06, 2006


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I'm thinking about tweaking my categories and finding it rather daunting. The typepad search engine helps a little but not as much as I'd like.

I always appreciate these updates on Olle's reading because it's enormously comforting to anticipate a range of little-boy responses to words. It's clear that Wilder is far less interested than his sisters in word sounds and a host of girl-friendly pre-reading activities. I'm just grateful that he delights in hearing books read.

I am intrigued by the 'boy's path to reading' notion. Although Evan started reading young (something that seems to run in my family), I have been bemused by his reluctance to actually *use* his skills. I was reading well at the same age, and clearly remember several of the books I enjoyed reading at that time - in fact, these books are one of my few clear memories of being this age! By comparison, Evan far prefers to be read to - he will pester and pester us to read to him, and only reluctantly pick up a book (and usually read it just fine, apart from particularly "tricky" words) if we aren't available. I just don't understand this, and keep hinting that it is "so much fun" to be able to read to yourself, as you don't have to wait for a grown-up to help you. I LOVED being able to read to myself, so I just don't *get* it. Your post makes me think (at the risk of being stereotypical, etc etc) that maybe it's a 'boy thing'. I am really interested hearing about the ups and downs of Olle's interest in reading - it is helping to prepare me to keep such things in perspective when they arise!

I am also intrigued (and in a strange way, kind of reassured) by your description of the children's nerves on going back to school. Watching Evan start school, I have been very struck by how difficult and stressful it is...and have felt twinges of worry that it is "just him" or that as parents we've "done something wrong". On some level, I know this is silly - I have many stressful school-related memories - but it helps to be reminded that lots of kids get nerves and tummy aches (hell, I remember far worse than this at High School!). I feel for Olle with his worries about multiplication tables and getting his work thrown in the bin (!) - this is just the kind of prospect that would have terrified me at the same age!!!! It's good to hear he has a nice teacher. I guess starting each new grade is a nerve-wracking experience.

Given that you have written before about how hard you have tried to raise your child in a very (for want of a better term) 'gender neutral' way, what do you make of the fact that he seems to be taking the 'typical boys path' to reading? Is it an influence of school/other kids/society, or more a biological thing (ie. there are some studies that suggest testosterone and other biological factors alter the way boys are 'wired' to learn)?

Jellyfish, good question as this is the source of my mystification. In many ways O has not been a typical boy - he was not at all interested in cars or trains. He's physically graceful, not boisterous. He's gentle and emotionally sensitive. All of which confirms my ideas about nurture. (And even more, confirms my ideas that there is a wide range of possible behaviours among boys and girls and the rigidly labelled genderised list gets all the attention and is used to push everyone else into line.)
He's loved stories and being read to from about age two. Friends of mine and teachers confirm that he has a very strong sense of narrative, a strong imagination - he does drama and loves it. All of this would lead me to think he'd be a natural candidate for reading to himself, at least from age seven, which is when I started reading a lot and I've seen other girls start then too. (And some boys, including in his class - so we do have to be careful about specifying what's 'typical'.) But Olle isn't and it looks like he isn't even close to it.
I don't see that as a reflection of anything hardwired. I do wonder if it's a reflection of something else that boys feel compelled to do - that they are still exploring external realities through play and sport to a degree that girls turn away from at this age. I don't know. I don't fully understand it. My brother, who has an English degree and owned a bookstore for a decade, says that he didn't start seriously reading till he was a teenager. (I was too busy reading at the time to notice.) It does just seem that there are different paths and perhaps more boys are on one than the other.

To add another data point: I've tried hard to raise my kids in gender-neutral ways. I've put a lot of thought and careful parenting into it, and I think I've done a good job of being gender-neutral. And yet my son *does* embrace all of the "typical boy things" that Olle doesn't. And my daughter loves the "typical girl things" -- although she's also interested in a lot of math and science things that are not typical girl things. Being so very carefully gender-neutral with them and yet having them turn out with such stereotypical gender roles anyway has led me to believe that *on* *average* these things are hardwired. I know I've posted about this here before, but... I used to be a very strong believer that gender roles are taught, not inborn, but watching my own kids grow up so differently has changed my mind.

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