Sunday, November 7, 2010

Daphne, Dressing Up, and Parenting Online

Parenting is hard enough. Taking it to the Web? That's a whole different can o' worms.

A Missouri mom's recent post about her 5-year-old son's Halloween costume has drawn a tremendous response from parents and others -- and not just for his choice in being Daphne from Scooby Doo.

On her blog Nerdy Apple Bottom, the Mo Mom wrote,
"If you think that me allowing my son to be a female character for Halloween is somehow going to ‘make’ him gay then you are an idiot. Firstly, what a ridiculous concept. Secondly, if my son is gay, OK. I will love him no less. Thirdly, I am not worried that your son will grow up to be an actual ninja so back off."
The post, which features a photo of her son in his bright orange and purple costume complete with pink boots, has gone viral, generating over a million hits and more than 38,000 comments. Mom was interviewed by phone on CNN’s “American Morning,” saying she and her husband were “flabbergasted” by the response.

Various media outlets have now weighed in, not to mention all the mothers and others with strong opinions.

Salon's Mary Elizabeth Williams hilariously addresses the mom's post, saying "This is how it's done, folks."
"It should be a no-brainer that 5-year-old boy who dresses like Daphne one day a year is not automatically gay or transgendered -- although obviously, if he had wanted to be Velma, he'd be a lesbian. The point is, as the mom blogger beautifully expresses it, so what?. . ."
But Carline Howard over at isn't so supportive.
"Her anger at the mean mommies is valid. But she’s taken to the blogosphere with her rants (people can be mean, even to children! traditional gender distinctions aren’t fair!) and his photo at the expense of her “worrier” son’s privacy."
This entire kerfuffle reminds me of a children's picture book called "King & King" (Tricycle Press, 2002) that was attacked for "promoting a gay agenda" and sexualizing characters for children. But what the book boils down to for me is less about homosexuality than about teaching tolerance. Buy it now.

I agree with Nerdy Apple Bottom that her son did "rock that wig." And obviously her post struck a chord across the country. So while many of us support the notion that "it takes a village," this Missouri Mom seems to have gotten a much larger village than she ever dreamed possible.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A New Form of Storytelling, Both Online and Off

The New York Times Sunday Book Review takes an interesting look at a new beast on the scene in children's literature: books that use an online component to engage and expand the reading experience.

These books are bridging the online and off-line reading experience, in some cases using the Internet to propel the plot forward. Readers go to websites mentioned in the book's pages for information or "bonus" material.

The concept sounds engaging, but it seems a little clunky in many ways.

If your child is still reading the paper page, she's going to have to shift from traditional book to computer and back again. But if she has made the move to an e-reader, the experience seems to be more fluid.

Says the Times:

". . . with the rise of e-readers and other tablet devices like Apple’s iPad, I have to imagine that some author is hard at work creating a fully digital experience that combines text, video, animation and data. Books, movies and video games will all contribute to this new form of storytelling, and I would not be surprised if it happens to children’s and young adult literature first. We may scoff at so much gimmickry, but what adults call gimmickry kids call something else: awesome."

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Teens Are Reading, But Just In a Different Way

The kids are all right.

At least, that's what I took away from a recent Washington Post story about young people's reading habits.

The article looks at recreational reading in the age of Wii and XBox and real-time Tweeting. And what it says was a bit of a comfort to the part of me that wants to write books for this audience: They are reading.

And it confirms what many of us are beginning to wrap our brains around: They're reading books in digital forms.

"It's not that they're reading less; they're reading in a different way," Kim Patton, president of the Young Adult Library Services Association, says in the Post article.

The story refers to a detailed analysis into the trend on reading for fun - in books, newspapers and magazines. Researcher Sandra Hofferth of the University of Maryland has looked at the daily time-use diaries of a nationally representative sample of children 12 to 18.

The Post reports the following: Pleasure reading dropped 23 percent from 2003 to 2008, from 65 minutes a week to 50 minutes a week - with the greatest falloff for those ages 12 to 14.

So where's the bright side? The Post gives Patton's answer:

"They could be reading on the cellphone, in games, on the Web, on the computer. It doesn't mean they're not reading, but they're not reading using the printed page."