My mother really only has to buy presents for two kids: a sixth grade boy and a first grade boy. And every year she is determined to get them books. Why books? It doesn’t take a sociologist to tell you that kids these days are far too connected, too commercial. My mother cites the fact that the sixth grade boy has a nicer cell phone than she does. She’s just jealous. So she buys books.
I had the pleasure of going down to the Books Inc. to help my mother fight the tide of kids who are the direct product of TV, video games, and the internet. I asked which books would suit first and sixth grade boys. I was referred to a number of titles. Artemis Fowl and Operation Typhoon were the titles for the sixth-grader. Super Fly Guy and Meet Wild Boars were the titles for the first-grader. I was proud of myself for contributing to old school gift-giving.
But am I really doing good by giving books? In Born to Buy, author Juliet Schor writes, “The conventional wisdom is that boys want power. Boys also want action, and they want to succeed.” Schor sees a culture of young consumerism fueled by a feedback loop of children looking to brands for what to buy and brands looking to kids for what to sell. In this case, the brands often force gender differentiation onto kids buy dividing their products and the corresponding advertising for products up for boys and girls. Those books I bought were all about action, power, and success but were also further evidence of the commericalized child, what the big brands want boys today to be. So maybe I shouldn’t be so proud about buying books for kids over the latest video game. No gifts, next time? Or is that against the Christmas spirit?