Summary: Told through photographs, drawings and a very approachable storyline, this story is about a girl who doesn't like to do many of the things that are stereotypically considered "girl things" to do, such as playing with make-up and dolls. She didn't think anything was wrong with that, because she was who she was and she liked what she liked, but many of her peers teased her and asked her if she was a boy or a girl, based on her haircut, her toys, and her athletic abilities. As she grew up, she constantly found herself defending her gender and having to answer to other people for her choices. She went home to her mom, very upset, and her mom explained to her that there are all types of people, with all types of interests, and essentially that's what makes her special, and eventually other people will understand her more.
From the title page of the book:
"Kids spend a lot of time debating with each other over what makes a boy a boy and a girl a girl. It's a time of choices. It's a time of creating themselves. It could be a time for blending and embracing the many ways they express themselves, but it is too often a time of narrowing the possibilities of who they can be. Are You a Boy or a Girl? enters into this conversation and opens it up. It is the story of a child thinking through who she is, a child learning through her mother's love how to be both strong and soft."
How would I use the book/curricular units: I would use this book with any class from Pre-School aged students through third or fourth grade, depending on the strength of the community within the classroom. It opens up the conversation about gender roles and gender-based stereotypes in a gentle, familiar way for students to explore and discuss. Some questions I would use to motivate the conversation include "Why are certain activities and choices considered "girl things" and "boy things"? Do they have to be?" I would have students sort out activities and objects such as a baseball and a hat into categories of "boy things" "girl things" and "anybody things" before reading the book, and then begin the discussion by asking them to defend some of their choices to place things in gender specific categories. After reading the book, we could look back to our sorted objects and activities and acknowledge that all of them could fit into the "anybody" category. TC wise, we could also explore character speech and analyze the way the other people in the story spoke to the main character, and see what we know about them based on what they said. We could look at the different between an inference in literature and an assumption about another person in older grades (2nd, 3rd, 4th).
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