Camp Creek Blog

Small Wins Wednesday: Clay class

Published by Lori Pickert on April 30, 2015 at 08:42 AM

Teaching clay class with little brother as his assistant

Teaching with his little brother as his assistant.

• • •

This week’s small win is from Sarah:

My six-year-old son Luca had the idea in early March to teach a pottery class at our home. The motivation behind doing the class was to make money, and the motivation for making money is (naturally) to buy more LEGOs. Luca has a strong interest in money and an entrepreneurial spirit.

He took a lot of steps to get to make this happen. He created and hung up flyers around town, worked on perfecting the process of making the teapots he was going to teach his friends how to make, met with the local art teacher on his own about how to structure an art class, and created (with my help) an invitation on Facebook.

Going out to hang the sign

He'd been putting a lot of energy into this project and we'd been writing down progress and things we needed to remember in our project journal. He was halfway though making a large sign to hang off the front porch the day of the class when we left on a long trip.

I didn’t hear a single word from him about the clay class or pottery for three weeks. I was wondering if he would pick it back up again, especially since there were about 40 (!!!) people coming to my house on the scheduled day to participate. I wondered if by leaving for three weeks we’d broken the momentum for the project.

Exactly one hour after walking through the door of our home he came to me and said, “Mom, can we get out the journal and see where I’m at with the pottery class project?” We read through our notes. He went and pulled out the sign on his own and picked up EXACTLY in the place he left off three weeks before.

The clay class went great. We set up the classroom space just the way Luca envisioned it. As the class started Luca took his seat, then got super shy and didn’t want to say a word. So, my husband stepped in with his kindergarten teacher magic to get the class rolling. Kreg taught for about the first 15 minutes of the class. At some point Luca started to jump in on his own with instructions and by the 30-minute mark Kreg stepped back almost completely and Luca had gotten comfortable enough to do the talking for the remainder of the 60-minute class.

Kreg and I are both working hard on backing waaaay off of Luca and his work. Having a project that culminated in a public event like a class was an interesting mix of figuring out when to step back and when to step forward. I think we did well.

The 15 kids in the class made some terrific pieces and it looked like everyone had a great time (I did!). Luca made enough money to buy the LEGO set he’d been saving for and he even gave his little brother (who was his assistant) a cut of the profits. ;-) I also think Luca might have inspired his dad to start teaching again, which is way cool.

If we'd never found Lori’s book it probably never would have happened!


Luca editing a photo he took of his pottery for use in the Facebook invite for his class.

All ready and waiting for friends!

Finished work. Class participants’ ages ranged from 4 to 37.

I’m here to disrupt your school

Published by Lori Pickert on February 7, 2015 at 08:47 AM

Dear Principal Jones, teachers, school board members, and parents,

My name is Carrie Smith. I'm here to disrupt your school.

People have been telling me for years that I shouldn’t be homeschooling — I should be improving the lives of all kids, not just my own! This year, it finally sank in.

We’ve been homeschooling for 10 years and hoo boy, I think we’ve tried it all! Montessori, classical, unschooling — you name it, we tried it. That’s what you do when you love your kids, I guess — you just keep fiddling with the recipe till you find what works. And now you’ll all benefit!

Our oldest, Margaret, was six when we pulled her out of school, and she still struggles with needing a bit of structure. Even after all these years of homeschooling she has a hard time taking advantage of the freedom she has to do it her own way. Her self-motivation still isn’t back 100%. But that’s okay — fewer changes for you to make! Ha ha!

Unfortunately, Margaret is a real crank bear if she has to get up before 9. But it turns out there’s abundant research showing that teenagers need more sleep and would benefit from a later start time. Circadian rhythms or something. I’m not sure how you’ll work it out with working parents and your bus schedule and so forth, but I’ll leave you to figure that out.

Carl is our oldest boy; he’s 12. Now, self-motivation is not a problem there. He’s never seen the inside of a classroom and he won’t stand for anyone telling him what to do or how to do it! Self-directed learner all the way. He really thrives in maker situations. You’ve probably read about maker spaces online — they’re all the rage. So much good stuff there, you’re sure to love it. You’ll have to mark out some really big blocks of time because the only way kids can think up their own ideas and then make them happen is if you clear the decks and throw your schedule out the window. I’ll let you work out what you want to drop from your current schedule to accommodate that.

Now Carl is like a lot of 12-year-olds — I don’t think the seat of his pants sees a chair all day. But no worries — talk about abundant research! Kids need to be up and moving around, not sitting down all day. And now they will be!

My younger daughter Luna is 9. She was born in France while we were living there for a year for my husband’s job and even though she was only 3 months old when we left, she must have picked up something from the air. The girl doesn’t walk when she can dance; she doesn’t talk when she can sing. She paints all day long.

Of course an artistic soul like our Luna would be miserable in school with all of the cutbacks in art education over the last several years — but not anymore! Ha ha! We’ll be reinstituting those art and music classes tout suite.

Our youngest, Joe, is 5. He’s a special case, but all our kids are, am I right? Strangely, what’s worked best for Joe is Waldorf, which didn’t work at all with the other kids. Waldorf is a little bit picky about … well … everything! You’ll see! I’ve prepared some handouts to send home about diet, special toys, no TV, and so forth. We’ll be switching to a Waldorf curriculum in all of the Kindergarten classes immediately.

Finally, in closing, I would like to sincerely apologize for taking so long to wake up and see that I should be taking my educational improvements to the school and putting them in action there. I honestly didn’t realize I had that power.

I mean, that’s why we homeschooled in the first place — because we didn’t think school could (or should have to, honestly!) accommodate the various needs of our four kids … not to mention the fact that we were figuring it all out as we went along! It certainly was a learning process.

Who knew that I could have stayed and improved things not just for Margaret, Carl, Luna, and Joe but for ALL kids. My husband and I had quite a laugh about it, I can tell you. I mean, we haven’t been able to afford a family vacation in ten years! We would give each other a rueful look every year writing out our property tax bill, looking at all that education money we couldn’t use — and now we can!



P.S. See you on Monday!


No one’s going to DIY that for you, sweetheart

Published by Lori Pickert on February 6, 2015 at 01:15 PM

It’s called DIY for a reason.

Wired published a story Homeschooling Only Deepens Silicon Valley’s Rift with the Rest of Us and I responded with the following rant on Twitter:


I love kids and I love great educators and I want great schools for ALL kids. But anyone who thinks it’s easy — or even doable — for one family or even a group of families to waltz in and disrupt their local school is … incorrect.

If I had the power to walk into my local school and change how they are doing things to how *I* think things should be done … gosh, just think of it. I bet they’d welcome me with open arms. They’d get out the red pen and start changing their schedule right then and there to accommodate my ideas.

But of course it doesn’t work that way.

To say that homeschooling parents are terribly selfish for just leaving and doing what they think is best for their own kids (a song homeschooling parents have been hearing from the very beginning) is to overlook the fact that schooling parents are just as selfish every time they

- sign their kids up for an extracurricular activity,

- move to a better neighborhood,

- hire a tutor,

- buy an educational app or book or film,

- help their kids with their homework,

and on and on and on. Not EVERY child has those benefits. Should you do for your child what you aren’t willing to do for society?

Please do not assume that just because people homeschool, they don’t contribute to the public schools or to all kids. You have no idea whether they volunteer, tutor, help out a teacher friend, buy school supplies, or offer to do free trainings and workshops. You know nothing about what they’re doing for all kids.

What you do know is what YOU are doing. Are you advocating for change? Are you in there demanding whatever it is you want? Are you rallying other parents to the cause?

Or, how about this: Are you asking your local school what they need? Do you know the average teacher spends at least $500.00 every school year buying materials out of his or her own pocket? Do you know they don’t just buy art supplies but soap and paper towels?

Whatever it is you’re doing, start there. DIY it. Be a self-directed learner. Educate yourself. Then decide what you want to do with what you learned.

If you believe with all your heart that I have the power to change your child’s education, that means you have the power, too. Use it.

Does what I do make a difference to anybody?

Published by Lori Pickert on January 27, 2015 at 10:19 AM
I was going to share this on Facebook but decided I wanted a permanent place on the blog for it, so I can reference it again and again.
Think of this applied to school — and then to family.
Max De Pree’s Twelve Questions to Leaders
Does what I do count?
Does what I do make a difference to anybody?
Why should I come here?
Can I be somebody here?
Is there for me any rhyme or reason here?
Can I “own” this place?
Do I have any rights?
Does coming here add any richness to my life?
Is this a place where I can learn something?
Would I show this place to my family — or am I embarrassed to show it to them — or does it just not matter?
Is there anybody here I can trust?
Is this place open to my influence?

Maker win: Blythe’s 3D-printed light-up dog collar

Published by Lori Pickert on October 2, 2014 at 09:54 AM

Blythe uses the 3D printer


Please enjoy this fantastic win today shared by Nicky Serrano and her daughter Blythe!

• • •

I wanted to share a huge win my 11-year-old daughter Blythe has had at her local Maker’s Guild. I am hoping we avoided most of the pitfalls Lori mentioned in her post What’s Wrong with DIY/Maker Faire/Hacking/Tinkering for Kids — and How We Can Make It Better.

Blythe decided in May that she wanted to make a 3D printed dog collar that lights up automatically at night, and that she wanted to exhibit it at the World Maker Faire (both things completely her idea).

She found her mentors at the Guild, registered herself for the Faire, came up against very many obstacles, made her own web page, printed her own business cards, got accepted to the Faire and finally got a working collar the night before!

She did need help and there were plenty of tears along the way — she had never 3D printed and the soldering was more fiddly than she had predicted, but she learned a ton of things at so many different levels.

At the Faire, she was not in a ‘kid’ section, but right in there with the adults. To top it all, she was interviewed by Make Magazine and she received an Editor’s Choice award and Best in Class.

One of the most popular things about her exhibit was the fact that she displayed all the failed versions of the collar. She is now working on improving the collar to get it to a point where she can sell it, and in the process she is learning all about what it takes to run your own business.

I personally would have preferred her not to have the stress of a deadline, but for her, exhibiting was a crucial part of the project, and I have to say that people were extremely supportive and full of constructive criticism. I’m guessing that exhibiting validates her work and makes the project real.

One of the things I love about our local Maker Space is that they have weekly open nights for people to go in and share their ideas, brainstorm, give advice — so far, my daughter is the only regular kid there, but she’s totally comfortable being dropped off for a few hours.

Here is her promotional video — including video of the dogs wearing her collar at night! — Nicky Serrano

• • •

This is so fantastic and shows what kids can do when they get the opportunities and support they deserve.

To clarify my own thoughts about deadlines, I think it’s not optimal when adults are pushing kids to meet a deadline, but of course when kids set their own goals, it’s self-directed and that’s a whole different matter. Sharing work with an audience is so motivating, as it obviously was for Blythe. Everything about her story is inspiring, but I especially love that she shared the failed versions of her design — really sharing her process and teaching others what she learned.

I know a lot of kids are going to be inspired by Blythe’s work — thank you so much for sharing, Nicky! I can’t wait to hear about her business as it gets going. Let us know if there’s a Kickstarter. :)

See also this great Maker’s Guild article about Blythe!

And a great interview with Blythe: “I like to be able to come up with ideas. I have lots of ideas.”


Why “do what you love” is not terrible advice

Published by Lori Pickert on August 29, 2014 at 01:57 PM

I saw a post on Austin Kleon’s blog about this piece by Rachel Nabors:

We rarely hear the advice of the person who did what they loved and stayed poor or was horribly injured for it. Professional gamblers, stuntmen, washed up cartoonists like myself: we don’t give speeches at corporate events. We aren’t paid to go to the World Domination Summit and make people feel bad. We don’t land book deals or speak on Good Morning America. — Don’t Do What You Love

If you don’t have time to read the whole thing, I’ll break it down for you:

— She pursued what she loved and was successful at it.

— For health and financial reasons, she stopped doing that and took skills she learned pursuing what she loved to build a very successful business that she loves.

Here are a list of quotes from her piece:

I used to make comics for a living … and I gave out similar advice and professed similar goals: If I just tried hard enough, I’d make it doing what I love, making comics for a living. If anyone was less successful then I was, well, they must not have been trying hard enough.

To an extent it worked! I won awards, had hordes of fan girls, a weekly syndicated web comic I got paid for (very well by comic industry standards, too). I thought I was doing great doing what I love.”

I needed surgery.

And I didn’t have health insurance.

Almost overnight the series shut down. My fans and friends ran a Herculean donation effort for me, but it wasn’t enough. I quit comics and went into web development, something I’d enjoyed doing to support my web comics presence…”

After five years in web development I’m at the top of my game. People from around the world ask me to speak their conferences. I live in a great city where I’m starting my second company. Even if I fail or have a medical emergency, I can easily pick up good, paying work, and make more in one weekend than I did on my 60 hour comics work weeks.

I love what I do. And it loves me back.”

[M]y first love, comics, gives me an edge in this industry. If I’d just gone straight into web development because it seemed like a money-maker, I wouldn’t be half as excited about what I can do or as interesting to others in my field. I and my community are better for the years I spent making comics, even if it wasn’t a successful career choice.” — Don’t Do What You Love

I shared this blog post with a young teen and asked him what he thought. His reply:

“She did a great job of making the opposite of her point.”

I’m with him. This seems to be a straightforward story of someone following the path of their interests and talents to one success followed by another even bigger success. I’m … confused.

But once again, I think we’ve stumbled onto a disagreement in defining terms. At one point, Nabors writes:

“I quit comics and went into web development, something I’d enjoyed doing to support my web comics presence, but I wouldn’t say I loved it.”

Ah. So there’s a difference between “doing what you enjoy” and “doing what you love.” Hmm. Somewhere in there I am sure lurks “doing what you’re good at” as well. Maybe the problem is defining “love” in this context as something like a romantic massage rather than something that feels enjoyable, hard, meaningful, achievable, and worth the effort.

Nabors describes herself as a “washed-up” cartoonist. That’s a pretty negative way of describing her situation. She says her cartooning skills contributed a great deal to her business’s success. She was also successful at being a cartoonist. I’m … still confused.

She also says:

“[I]f I’d kept ‘doing what I love’ in the industry that didn’t love me back, I would have never realized that there are other, more profitable, things I love.”

But … it sounds like her industry *did* love her back. She was successful! She made a living! Her friends made a Herculean effort to raise money for her when she became ill! And she’s saying that doing what she love introduced her to other, more profitable things she loves…

Oh, wait — “love me back” here is, I think, code for “pay me enough money.” Fair point. But I think it would be clearer if she said “paid me enough money to cover health insurance and a savings account.” You shouldn’t call it “love” on your end meaning passion and “love” on the other end meaning profit — that just gets confusing.

And — why does it matter that you love what you do NOW if the point of this piece is that you shouldn’t do what you love? Still confused.

And — it seems to me that she stopped loving what she was doing when she realized she wanted to make more money. So to continue wouldn’t have been “doing what [she] loved.” She may have still loved comics but she no longer loved comics as a career. Her aspirations changed.

I think Ms. Nabors imagines that her twisty, turny path could never be replicated and she made it out by the skin of her teeth. Instead (and I speak from the perspective of having walked a twisty, turny career path of my own), I think hers is a pretty ordinary story of success. Start out doing something you think you want to do based on what you enjoy and what you do well … figure out it’s not quite for you for one reason or another … examine new opportunities … make adjustments to the plan … repeat until satisfied or retirement age.

In the end, “don’t do what you love” just doesn’t seem like very useful advice to me. Everyone needs a starting point: somewhere to launch their search for meaningful work and a satisfying life. “Don’t do what you love” doesn’t really narrow things down much, does it?

What’s the alternative? What’s the better route to ending up like Ms. Nabors, “doing something you love that loves you back”? Do you start with Time Magazine’s “hot careers for 2020” list? Throw a dart at a list of possible careers? Ask your parents and their friends for advice?

Could Ms. Nabors have gone to college for a four-year degree and still ended up where she is now, traveling the world doing speaking engagements, opening her second office?

Via her retrospective coherence, apparently yes. Via mine, probably not.

“Do what you love” has different meanings to different people. Delivered to someone with very little idea of what it means to do real work, it means one thing.

Delivered to someone who has plenty of experience doing real work, it means something else. I’ve written about this before:

Career advice tomes like this are not written for project-based homeschoolers — or for other homeschoolers/unschoolers who have already had years to deeply explore their interests.

Newport’s book has some good advice for 18-25-year-olds who have been pushed toward achievement their whole lives and who have a non-reality-based, pipe-dreamy idea of what they’d really like to do, which they call their “passion.”

It’s advice for people whose interests have never been connected with their work in any meaningful way.

This advice doesn’t work for kids who are experienced at coupling their interests with real-world experience, knowledge, and skills. These kids have already deeply explored their interests. They already know what it means to get beyond the honeymoon period to the place where real, challenging work is required. They have experienced the deep pleasure of having real skills and doing meaningful work.

These kids have shared what they know with others. They’ve connected with their community. Their experiences have firmly planted them in reality. Their interests aren’t pipe dreams and fantasies — they are gateways to the nexus of “what I like to do,” “what I have to give,” and “what people will pay for.”

Most career advice is for kids who came up through the regular system. It won’t help kids who were educated via an alternate path. These books are aimed at kids who haven’t initiated their own projects, haven’t explored their interests deeply, and haven’t learned how to find their place in the world. A project-based homeschooler is already way ahead of the game. They don’t need to be told to dump their passions and buckle down to sharpen their skills at whatever job they find themselves in after graduation. They already know how to combine interests, knowledge, skills, and hard work to build something the world needs. They’ve already moved on to asking deeper questions about their purpose. They have experience finding their place in the world and figuring out what they can contribute. — Why Skills Don’t Trump Passion

For me, “do what you love” means starting with what you know about your own signature strengths and what you think you would like to do with them. That’s a path to meaningful work. You will almost certainly not end up doing what you imagined at age 17. You will make new discoveries, meet new people, and gather new information. You will almost certainly end up doing a lot of different things.

“Do what you love” isn’t a career plan — but it is a plan for a good life.

Goleman: When you talk about Good Work, you propose three tests that anyone can apply to their own work to ask the question, ‘Is the work I’m doing in this category?’ One is, it fits your values. The second is that it’s excellent work — you’re highly competent at what you do; you’re effective. The third is, it brings joy.

Gardner: …[W]e found, particularly in people who were working in very challenging professions or in very challenging milieus, that it was simply too difficult to be technically excellent and constantly reflecting about whether you are responsible and ethical. It was too difficult to do unless what you were doing was terribly important to yourself and you really felt it was your mission in life. You felt that you weren’t whole unless you were doing this kind of thing. — What I’ve been reading: The path to Good Work is paved with passion and hope

Doing what you love doesn’t necessarily mean doing it as your career — but it can still infuse your work with more meaning and your life with more satisfaction:

Creative hobbies boost your work performance. They can be the key to creative breakthroughs and better mental health.

Side projects can diversify and protect your income and boost your career.

The benefit of having lots of different interests is that you train your brain to learn many new patterns. The patterns you learn in one field can then be applied to totally different fields to solve problems creatively. — Steve Pavlina

Job crafting — upgrading your day job by pulling in your strengths, passions, and values — makes your work more meaningful and more enjoyable.

But let’s say a young person does want to pursue what they love for their career and they ask for your advice. Consider the following before you answer:

Job satisfaction is at its lowest rate since anyone started measuring it and nearly two-thirds of people would choose another career if they could.

[W]hen you ask older folks for the most important lesson they’ve learned, what do they say? “Don’t stay in a job you dislike.”

Plenty of research says money doesn’t make us all that happy once you can pay the bills. … Having meaning in your life increases life satisfaction twice as much as wealth.

Can you guess what Harvard Business Review says is the #1 career regret? “I wish I hadn’t taken the job for the money.”

Despite low pay and high unemployment artists have higher job satisfaction than most people.

Aristotle once said, “Where the needs of the world and your talents cross, there lies your vocation.” He was way ahead of his time.

One of the most proven elements in work research is that using your strengths makes you feel great:

Americans also gain a boost in positive emotions the more they use their strengths. The more hours per day adults believe they use their strengths, the more likely they are to report having ample energy, feeling well-rested, being happy, smiling or laughing a lot, learning something interesting, and being treated with respect.

Doing what you’re passionate about has wide-ranging positive benefits.

Via Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined:

Elderly individuals who were harmoniously passionate scored higher on various indicators of psychological adjustment, such as life satisfaction, meaning in life, and vitality, while they reported lower levels of negative indicators of psychological adjustment such as anxiety and depression.

Cal Newport points out a weakness in the “follow your passion” argument: most people’s passions are quite difficult to make a living at.

What’s interesting is that most often it is passion that leads us to “10,000 hours” of deliberate practice and subsequent expertise.

Via Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined:

The researchers also looked at the role of passion among 130 undergraduate students enrolled in a selective psychology course. They found a direct path from harmonious passion to deliberate practice: the students who were more harmoniously passionate about their work were more likely to engage in deliberate practice.

So following your passion and working hard may eventually make you great at what you love… — How You Can Have a Fulfilling Career: 10 Scientific Steps

Is doing what you love a guarantee for success? Absolutely not. But neither is pursuing something you don’t love.

My father could have been a great comedian but he didn’t believe that that was possible for him and so he made a conservative choice. Instead, he got a safe job as an accountant, and when I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job. And our family had to do whatever we could to survive. I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love. — Jim Carrey

In the end, it’s not the advice that matters — it’s the young people who are receiving it. We need to make sure they know the deep pleasure of doing meaningful work. We need to make sure they know what their interests, talents, and signature strengths are. We need to make sure they know how to seek out opportunities and build community. We need to make sure they have experience working hard at something that matters. We need to make sure they’ve already experienced failure and disappointment and they’ve already learned how to move past it and adapt.

If they start experiencing meaningful work at a young age, they’ll do it for the rest of their lives — whether it comes with a paycheck or not. And that’s the key to a meaningful and satisfying life.

The irony is that the teen years could be so rich for exploring interests and talents (and doing real, meaningful work) but we stuff them with so many hours of school, homework, and extracurricular activities (all the better for your college application!) that kids don’t know who they are or what they want to do. — The ROI of Meaningful Work

When I talk to my sons about the work they love to do, we’re not discussing some pink cloud fantasy that will happen later on, when they’re adults — we’re talking about the work they’re doing right now.

By the time well-meaning people starting telling them “don’t do what you love,” it will already be too late.


See also: The path to Good Work is paved with passion and hope


Both of these one-week, self-guided e-classes are now available for instant enrollment here. Enjoy!

I can’t thank you enough for this class! It’s so much more than a journaling class. The advice I learnt on setting goals and creating habits is priceless and I will be applying it to every aspect of my life from here on out! — Breonna

I think that Lori’s drawing class has been one of the most powerful and useful resources that we have used in our many years of home education. — Petra

PBH Master Class enrolling now!

Published by Lori Pickert on August 14, 2014 at 07:59 AM

We are now enrolling the fall session of the PBH master class. It will run for six weeks from September 8 through October 17 and costs $125. Please go here to read the class description, testimonials from former students, and enroll if you are interested!

I probably won’t schedule another master class until sometime next spring (April/May). If you can’t join us this time, you can join the early-bird announcement list for that class.

Thank you and I hope we get to work together!

After rereading the last two emails, I have to tell you how remarkable this class is. My growth is measured in leaps and bounds already. I am in the midst of completely evolving our home education. Life learning has ever been my goal. Thank you for the tools. — Stephanie

• • •

I feel so much more confident and hopeful and like I am making progress and moving forward after taking the PBH Master Class. This is the ultimate “How To” with an amazing mentor by your side. — Alice

• • •

This class is outstanding. It takes the PBH principles and ideas from Lori’s book and blog and helps you make them real. Real, authentic learning and co-learning, journaling, reflecting, deep thinking, self-directing, culture-building, environment-tweaking, mentoring, creating, making, and doing. The class really drove home for me how flexible and forgiving, yet sturdy and hearty, PBH is. It has helped me commit to my own meaningful work and to begin creating habits, a family culture, and an environment that will help my kids do the same. — Tana

• • •

The class was so much more and better than what I had even hoped for and wished to gain. — Audra

Read more testimonials here.


PBH Facebook group

Published by Lori Pickert on July 31, 2014 at 08:13 AM

Heck has frozen over, pigs are flying, and I’m back on the Facebook so we could have a PBH Facebook group — check it out here!


Reading and gender and the messages we send

Published by Lori Pickert on July 28, 2014 at 06:25 PM

Yes, yes, a million times yes to this:

A couple things happen when we focus all of our collective attention on boys and whether or not they are reading. First, we tell boys that they are not reading, and that reading is not an inherently “boyish” thing to do. We expect them, in fact, not to read, and boys who love reading are outside the norm. Next, we start gendering books and telling boys that they like certain kinds of books, that they are interested in humor and adventure and fun. And they specifically do not like the sort of books that help kids at this age figure out how to be in the world, and they specifically do not like literary books or hard books or emotional books. And they absolutely positively do not want to read a book starring a girl.

When we give panels on boys and reading with only (or even predominantly) male authors, we tell boys they are only supposed to like books by men. (This will be surprising to JK Rowling and Suzanne Collins.) We tell them that only men have something to say to them. When we say boys won’t read books with girl heroes, we are constructing that reality for them. (It gets troubling in all kinds of ways — the act of reading as a child is about empathy for and connection with the protagonist, and it’s quite problematic to tell boys we don’t expect they can empathize with girls.)

And in all of this, we’re telling boys that we don’t expect a lot from them. — On Gender and Boys Read Panels

The post goes on to make many more good points.

Related posts of mine on and around this subject:

[I]t’s a shame to treat reading as a sort of punishment — or something that requires a spoonful of sugar to go down, which is why I’m a curmudgeon about reading programs that bribe kids with prizes or pizza if they read. Reading isn’t punishment — reading is one of the greatest things ever. When we act this way, we are sending a clear message that reading isn’t awesome — it’s something that requires cajoling, bribery, or denial. It’s good for you, like broccoli.

But why — why?! — do we keep presenting reading as something that is incompatible with normal life? Why can’t you read and watch TV? Why can’t you enjoy playing the Wii and reading a good book?

Does it really follow that children need to be bored to read? And in order to invoke boredom — and cause children to read — we have to smash all the other entertainment options?

If we are going to put forth this idea that readers are people (and children) who sit around in horn-rimmed glasses and sweater vests, who don’t play football or Xbox, who don’t like Spongebob or Spiderman, then how are we going to convince reluctant readers that reading is one of the most awesome activities ever? — In defense of reading, which should need no defense


I worked for years in a school environment, and I constantly had to take kids and convert them into readers — convince them that they were wrong about hating to read, about not wanting to read, about wanting to do anything but read. When you try to promote something good (reading, playing outside) by attacking something kids love, you are seriously not helping me.

I tie this to the “books are broccoli” approach. Imagine a cartoon where a teacher is handing two parents a sheet of paper and saying, “Now, the way we introduce children to hating learning is to first get them to hate reading. So require your child to read 30 minutes every night and then fill out and initial this form.”

If you want to suck the fun out of anything that your child enjoys doing, I suggest you force them to do it for 30 minutes every night, fill out a form, and have you initial it.

What is the message there? Reading is broccoli. It’s good for you. You won’t do it unless we make you. Eat your broccoli. Read!

The kid who liked to read sees reading turned into an assigned chore. He gets the message: Reading isn’t cool, dude. It’s something no one would do if they weren’t forced to do it. And by the way, you don’t get to pick out what you read anymore. That book is too young for you; that other one is too old. And neither of them are leveled readers. Here, read this flat, melba-toasty book for a half an hour and then I’ll initial your form. Make sure you get your form signed or I’ll make you read it again. It reads or it gets the hose.

Does it ever work to encourage activity A by denouncing activity B? Books are broccoli and kids need their broccoli so that makes TV and video games candy. Sweet, delicious candy. I’m in my 40s but even I know: candy good, broccoli bad.

The either/or approach focuses on scarcity. The glass is half empty, your day is almost gone. Your free time is as scarce as hen’s teeth. Don’t waste it on things you enjoy! Invest it in these more intellectually valuable pursuits instead!

An entirely different approach would be to present books as candy, the outdoors as candy. — Why I don’t worry about my kids’ screen time, Part I

Our choices convey beliefs; we need to stop and think about whether we’re sending the messages we really want to send. Something worth thinking about.