Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Boys Have Small Language Centers

"My mother's a librarian, but I hate to read," Sharon Grover's son is quoted as saying in today's
Washington Post article by Valerie Strauss
about boys and reading, page A12. [Does this sound like a radio ad for the paper, or what?]

One of the basic intellectual and emotional challenges people face, I think, is nesting one's own talents and gifts with those of a community, either a biological or chosen family, or an arbitrary intellectual family in a public school. Elementary school, well in fact school in general all the way through graduate school, was (and is) a mind-bending experience. My own reading interests didn't take root until high school, and I am almost a librarian. [Unlike my blog host, Keith, who was reading avidly from an early age and is way a head of me!] The thing is, people are motivated by (in this case NOT motivated) at different times and different ways.

The recent flap, more than a flap really, about Harvard's President Summers and women in the sciences is another very complex example of diverse definitions of diversity in education at all levels.

The gender divide in human intellectual development is fascinating, and territory laden with morals and morasses often if not always better avoided. However, over the holidays, a family member (who is also a librarian) was telling me about grant work she was doing with public libraries in Maryland to help boys read. On these issues, I'm used to the teacher's perspective, but not the public librarian's. I find myself not wanting to avoid these issues at all, but need to be careful with my verbal tendencies and my small male language center.

Equality of being and of access to information are two of the highest ideals our society and education system support, though for many it's more a myth, according to the papers, if not also life experience. And that ideal of equality exists in the face of tremendous human diversity.

Archivists and librarians have a role to play in these issues, I think. So when we read in class the psychological aspects of the reference interview, it is important material, and material not mastered without the support of our professional peers.

Where am I going with all of this? Simply this: information professionals in all contexts have a responsibility to make themselves and their institutions as diversely user-friendly as possible. So many aspects of our lives encourage us to act against the rhythms of our bodies, let's not make reading (the second best adult game ever) another.

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