"What Our Boys Are Reading": Lydia Sigourney, Francis Forrester, and Boyhood Literacy in Nineteenth-Century America


Reading has long been talked about in studies of nineteenth-century culture and of children's literature as a way to discipline adult and child readers in general or women and girls in particular, but it has received less attention as a source for ideas about disciplining boys. This article explores debates about boys and reading as theorized in novels, essay collections, children's periodicals, and conduct manuals, focusing on the work of Lydia Sigourney and Francis Forrester. While many writers favored an approach in which boys read narratives about historical figures and replay their typically masculine attitudes or actions, Sigourney, Forrester, and others were critical of this model.