3+/5. I never read genderified books like this. The only reason I even checked this out of the library is because E noticed it on the "new books" shelf, picked it up, and begged me to check it out. I think it is mostly because she liked the colored pencils on the cover. I asked her what she thought was about before writing this, and she looked at me as though I were an idiot and said, "Pink and blue!" I suspect she was hoping that it would provide me with craft activities for her.
Anyway, it actually taught me some things, I think, or at the very least forced me to confront my own prejudices. I'd always sort of assumed that girls were
"more verbal" than boys (except for my kid, who talked early but is now the second least verbal kid in both her social groups), and this turns out to not be true for the things they've measured (e.g., vocabulary), except that girls are a little advanced in verbal ability for the first several years of life. And once I thought about it, I realized it is true in my anecdotal sample: although there was a big difference when E was 2 or so, even at age 4.5, I can see that the boys and girls in E's class are fairly close in verbal ability.
And she did a good job in explaining in layman's terms statistical concepts like variance, and overlapping probability distributions, and the idea that just because the two means of a population might differ, you have to look at by how much they differ and how that compares to the variance. So I was reluctantly impressed by her taking the time to do that.
I had the same problem with this book that I do with all pop-sciency books I read, which is that she will cite a study and then act very smug that she has made her case, even though there might be an alternate hypothesis that would explain the data, so what did you do to control for that, or did you do another study to study that… argh. Some of this may be that she's not trying to write that sort of book; she cites Pink Brain, Blue Brain
(Eliot) as a book to read for a more academic approach, so perhaps I shouldn't ding her for that.
It also annoyed me that she quoted a study that showed that there was a "0.21" difference between infant boys' and girls' activity level. According to her this is small! I have no idea what units she is in, what the standard deviation is supposed to be… WHAT. Also this difference gets larger over time, which she blithely attributes to cultural programming… but I don't see any studies on this… so I have no idea where she's pulling that out of.
Another irritating part was that the actual "parenting" part was mostly her saying, "Hey, these are some things that I did as I parented my own kids, so you should do them too!" Occasionally she would have studies that kind of really didn't back up the specific things she had recommended.
annoying part was when she acted all smug, which she often did. This bit was my second least favorite part:
Stereotypes about gender have affected you, just as much as they affect your kids. Think for a second about yourself. Are you good at math? If you are a woman, I would bet money — if I knew you and could actually collect — that you say either (1) you are not very good at math or (2) you do not like math.
…You just lost your bet. Don't you go down laying gender stereotypes on me, please and thank you! I am willing to believe the average woman reading your book might not like math, but you just wrote a whole book about how the mean does not describe an entire population
, what is your problem?
(My least favorite part was the story she told about a friend who refused to believe her nonverbal kid had autism because she clung to the stereotype that boys were less verbal than girls, thus showing that stereotypes can be harmful! JUST. NO. Look, coming to the conclusion that something is wrong with your kid is very difficult, and some people have a really hard time with it, and will cling to anything they can. If it weren't gender stereotyping it would have been something else. I just… had a violent reaction to her using this as support for her point. Granted, she did present it as a fairly minor point. BUT STILL.)
Oh, here's another good one!
A meta-analysis shows that boys remember boy-labeled pictures, words, and toys better than girls do, and girls remember girl-labeled pictures, words, and toys better than boys do... How does this play out in real life?... If your daughter is given an erector set, she will first notice the boys playing with it on the box. It might as well be labeled "Not for you" because that is how she will interpret it. She will automatically be less interested in it... She will never really figure the set out, never fully realize all she can build with it. It simply won't keep her attention long enough. Mechanical skills stay a boy thing, strengthening the stereotype even though you tried to fight it.
So this is another good example of how she takes an idea/study that I think is interesting and which I believe (that humans tend to filter by group association) as well as an action that I actually agree with and think is a good idea (toys shouldn't be labeled by gender association), and wraps it in language that is so smug and irritating that it makes me want to stop reading even though I actually agree with all the points she's making! I want to say, "Hey, my daughter has never in her entire life noticed any kid on a box of any gender... and she doesn't like dolls even though all the girls she knows play with them... so... just stop making assumptions about her!" (All right, fine, it is true that she has become an Anna and Elsa fan for no other reason than that all the girls she knows are singing Frozen songs incessantly. But still.)
In conclusion, this book made me so irritated, but I did learn stuff from it and it had some good points, so... yeah. I don't recommend it exactly, but it might be interesting to flip through it a little if you see it at the library or something and see if it annoys you :)