What’s up with today’s ideas about boys?
We believe in the power of children’s books to plant critical ideas, share values, and foster curiosity and introspection. (And to be glorious and fun, of course.) This power is maximized by offering children characters they can personally identify with. Sadly, in our society this often means boy characters for boys. (Although girls have “permission” to identify with boys, like Harry Potter, boys generally don’t.) Hence our dismay when we couldn’t find realistic fiction for our young sons that was as good as what we had found for our daughters (like American Girl’s Josefina and Kit). As we kept searching, we realized the problem went deeper than we thought.
Thankfully, girl advocates have made tremendous progress over the last few decades. They have broadened girl’s choices. And sadly, its boys who seem to be caught in a confining 1950s era vision of what it means to be male. Yet in the 1950s, stereotypes held that boys were smart, and girls were stupid. Now, that stereotype has completely flipped. Obviously neither version is true, yet popular culture is full of messages that “boys will be boys.” That means they can’t: read, learn, listen, sit still, not hit, be sweet…you know the litany.
But now more than ever, in a world more dependent on brains than brawn, intelligence (including emotional intelligence) is mandatory for success. And intelligence is cultivated from the first days of life on.
“If I had a nickel for every time someone asked if we had something like popular books for girls, but for boys…I’d be a millionaire,” answered the bookstore clerk. When we two moms (lifelong friends) kept hearing that response in our quest for quality books and toys for our sons, we knew we weren’t alone in our frustration. We are Peggy (mother of a girl and a boy) and Ann (mother of two girls and a boy). We still struggle to find materials to help us in that daunting parental job of instilling the values and skills our sons will need for the journey to healthy adolescence and adulthood—including social skills, emotional intelligence, and personal responsibility.
Where did we get such high expectations in the first place? From the books we had read to our older daughters. We’ve found no shortage of quality materials designed to appeal both to them as girls, and to us as parents. Their childhoods have been filled with characters that they can personally identify with—characters who explore how to be: true to oneself, an engaged friend, daughter or sister, and an independent person. These characters struggle with what it means to “do the right thing” as they find themselves in complex situations that the reader might find herself in. The reader witnesses outcomes—sometimes suprising. Along the way, these characters build the skills and confidence needed for resiliency, creativity, empathy and strength.
But for boys, we mostly just found two-dimensional and often violent action heroes, and potty humor. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…but it’s not enough. For parents who also want books and toys that can be building blocks for character development—and antidotes to the stream of violent and caustic media that increasingly fill our kids’ days—we hunger for stories that are both fun and positive.
Our effort grew in dynamism when Peggy’s niece, Sarah Smith, contributed her ideas and enthusiasm. The momentum grew when Valerie Tripp, author of 35 American Girl books, agreed to bring her unparalleled expertise in writing popular and life-changing children’s literature to the project.
Hence, Boys Camp!
Author Jean Craighead George wrote that what children want most is to know that they can be successful, independently. The founder of a successful school in Delaware told us that children need heroes. Child development specialists cite the value of mixed-age and mixed-gender friendships. We know most children are interested in nature and animals. Today’s diversity calls for building connections between people from different backgrounds. Boys Camp is an imaginary—but possible—place, where all these ideas come together. We hope parents will be thrilled, and boys (and girls) will be asking for the next story.
Vision and values
We envision a society that encourages boys to explore a wide range of developmentally-appropriate experiences, opportunities and options, without limits based on gender. These experiences enable every boy to be himself and grow to manhood as a healthy individual, family member and community member.
We support the emotional, intellectual, and physical growth of every boy with developmentally-appropriate materials that enable him to explore who he is as an individual, pursue his interests, and successfully engage with his family and friends and those he meets at school and in other settings.
- • We believe that boys and girls are more alike than different. You don’t have to look far to find boys and girls that exhibit behavior traditionally assigned to the other gender, e.g. in sports, art, music, and cooking.
- • Each individual child’s personal growth is best fostered by a wide range of choices and means of expression, many of which are currently not offered to boys because they are considered “feminine.”
- • When people grow up to “be themselves”—including pursuing their own education and career choices, hobbies, relationships and more—they are more likely to be satisfied with their lives, and wiser, more productive members of society, which benefits everyone.
- • We believe in the value of a society that fosters meaningful engagement across ages, genders, cultures, races, income levels and other means by which people may be segregated.
- • Stereotypes keep boys, girls and all people harmfully confined. Not only do we need to avoid these stereotypes, we need to actively work to dismantle them.
Who we are:The Boys Camp Team
Silver Spring, Maryland
- • Author of 30+ award-winning plays and books of historical fiction for American Girl (tens of millions of copies sold)
- • Author of 100+ poems, songs, skills book pages, and fiction and nonfiction stories for The Superkids Reading Program, published by the nonprofit Rowland Reading Foundation
- • Script consultant and advisor for films based on her American Girl stories, including “Kit Kittredge, An American Girl”
- • 1973 graduate with honors from the first co-educated class at Yale and 1981 recipient of M.Ed. from Harvard
- • Winner, March of Dimes Mother of the Year in recognition of her support for public schools, Girl Scouts, and the Make A Wish Foundation
- • Frequent speaker at schools, museums, and libraries, including the Library of Congress, The Smithsonian, The New York Historical Society, The Brooklyn Museum, Colonial Williamsburg, and Old Sturbridge Village
- • Mother of a daughter who continues to promote literacy and learning
Director of Partnership Development
Takoma Park, Maryland
- • Specialist in communication for social change, based at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland
- • Expert in community-based approaches to education and health
- • Writer/creator of educational games/books for young people addressing global health issues
- • Founder and manager of ad hoc effort to stop stereotype-based gender-segmented toy marketing to children, which received national news coverage
- • Received coverage from Wall Street Journal, NY Times, Philadelphia Inquirer and feedback and promises from Toys R Us and Fox News
- • Developed and directed licensed, fully-enrolled experiential education program for elementary school children
- • High school teacher and Peace Corps volunteer in Botswana, Africa
- • BA in English Literature and MA in International Development
- • Husband Steve Hendrix is a journalist with the Washington Post
- • Mother of two daughters and one son
- • Grandmother of seven different kinds of pets over the last few years (perhaps says yes too easily when it comes to pet requests?)
- • 20 years of business ownership and expertise
- • BS in Elementary Education, Loyola University, New Orleans
- • Taught third grade to low-income children in New Orleans, tutored a wide range of people and home-schooled children for three years
- • Mother of a daughter and a son
- • Also a bit of a softy in the pet department—and that’s not counting the big snapping turtle in the pond out back!
New York, NY
- • MBA Candidate at NYU Stern (class of 2014) specializing in Marketing and Social Enterprise
- • Previously an editor at a lifestyle magazine, editing and writing articles on travel, food, style, and books
- • Once a busy tutor assisting grade school students
- • Georgetown University graduate with a major in American Studies and a minor in Spanish
- • Thesis analyzed gender politics in the photography and text of Rolling Stone Magazine
- • Lives in Brooklyn with her two rescue dogs, Emma and Sophie