How I Addressed Gender Bias in My Book Club by Sedley Abercrombie

After attending a conference early last school year I finally got up the nerve to try a book club.  At the time, I was lucky enough to work with a very supportive principal who supported my ideas.  But where to start?


I began to research and I find this AWESOME website:  As a mother and an educator (and also having had a minor in women’s studies back in the dark ages) I found the idea of an all girls book club intriguing.  The book list was great, no damsels in distress here… this will be great!  But… hold on… boys are reluctant readers, too.  Don’t they need a book club, something high interest, adventure?  (See Should they be denied entry into this fantastic opportunity just because of their gender?


{bang head here}

{insert – light bulb}


The solution:  2 book clubs.  This meant two book lists, two meeting dates and double the work. I began to question if I should make an appointment with a psychiatrist!


Problem solved!  A book club for boys and one for girls?  Perfect, right?  But then I got to thinking about some of those students that might go either way – you know who they are.  I wanted to do some good with my book clubs, but I didn’t want to be put on the news for the wrong reasons like possibly denying a student a chance to join a club because of the restroom he or she uses.  So… what now?  Take away the gender bias!


So, the two clubs were born.  Mighty Kids was created with a list of books with strong, central female characters.  On the other hand, Book Ninjas was formed primarily with adventure titles.  I marketed the clubs to all students as gender neutral and book talked the books.  I encouraged the students to choose the book club that focused on their interests, not their gender.


But we haven’t even had the first meeting yet!  At this point, I was hesitant to even commit to something year long because I wasn’t even sure I would have the interest.  I was nervous – would the book clubs be a success?  Or would they crash and burn.  Well, here goes nothing…


I advertised.  I set a date.  I chose some titles.


Book Ninjas read Wild Life by Cynthia DeFelice.

wild life

Mighty Kids read Rules by Cynthia Lord.



What happened next?


We had our first meeting.  Book Ninjas had 35 students in attendance:  30 boys and 5 girls.  Mighty Kids had 16:  15 girls and 1 boy.


In the beginning, I didn’t make any promises to continue.  I wanted to gauge participation, engagement, behavior – all of those things before I made a long term commitment (to not one but two book clubs).  But the kids were so excited to be a part of something cool, not to mention the books were pretty awesome, that it was an easy decision to continue.

I have to admit.  It took a lot of planning.  And  a lot of reading.  There were lists to create, reviews to read…. Plan, plan, plan.


But it was so worth it.  So much so that I’m doing it again.  Every month this next year.
mighty kids book ninjas

If you would like to learn more about the Book Ninjas, Mighty Kids or the books on the lists, please comment below or contact me on Twitter at @sedley1.


Sedley Abercrombie is a 6th year teacher librarian in rural North Carolina.  She is a SymbalooPD Pro, CommonSenseMedia Certified Educator, NCSLMA Emerging Leader, creator of #nctlchat and sometime blogger.  You can follow her on twitter @sedley1.