Born to Buy Books

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?

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4 thoughts on “Born to Buy Books”

  1. i can’t speak for the others, but at least in artemis fowl there’s plenty there besides action, power and success. it would be simplistic to say that just because those things make up the plot of the books, those are the values the books promote. the whole premise of the series is that a boy who only cares about those things learns real human values. also, there’s a pretty kick-ass female character. so no worries, you did some good shopping. 😉

  2. Thank goodness Hallie isn’t a girl, who are “thought to want glamour and femininity” despite any glimpses of “girl power,” according to Schor.

    Perhaps I should instead be worried about the kind lady who sold me the books on the premise that “action, power, and success” would entice the sixth grade boy.

  3. given your syntax in the above comment, you’d think i wasn’t a girl at all! i think i need to read this woman’s book, she sounds like she has some interesting ideas.
    as for the saleslady…hmm. maybe your author has it right, and boys are enticed by action, power and success (are they? you would know!), so in a way the saleslady had it right – give boys books set within a framework of action, power and success, but embed deeper moral lessons. a spoonful of sugar, as it were?

  4. There’s always comic books. DC and Marvel have both started making collections of all the old ones, so you could catch a series where it started and read it from there.

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