Librarians have always discussed methods of developing children’s interest in reading, but they have focused more on the books being read than on the act of reading. Although many touted the need to “establish the reading habit,” a closer reading of the literature reveals that this referred specifically to reading “good books,” those which socialized children into culturally acceptable sex roles. As early as 1876, articles warned of the dangers of sensational fiction for both girls and boys. By the 1940s, comic books had replaced sensational fiction as a potential “corrupting influence.” Only in the late 1950s did public librarians begin to address the new problem of a reluctance to read at all among children in general and among boys in particular. This paper will examine the effect of gender role expectations on librarians’ efforts to promote reading to children in the twentieth century. In particular it will explore the questions of whether these strategies continue to be designed to promote reading literature that reinforces society’s gender role expectations and of whether they are designed to promote reading to both boys and girls equally, or whether one group is privileged at the expense of the other.


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pp. 402-422
Launched on MUSE
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