“Real Men Read Alcott”

I am teaching Little Women to my literature classes, one of which is composed of twelve 6th grade boys. They are not excited at the least bit at the prospect of 440 pages of a “girl book.” Any suggestions for helping them to get over the mental hurdle? Girls have so much less trouble reading “boy books.”

15 responses to ““Real Men Read Alcott”

  1. The only thing that popped in my mind was to have that class read Little Men. But that might defeat the purpose. But it also might whet their appetite for more of her works…

  2. A few parents asked for Little Men but THIS week, after it’s been on the reading list since July. And the classes read the same books. It works. The girls read the boy books… :)

  3. All I can say is, that I’m proud to say my hubby was man enough to have read it. Although his mom made him. He secretly liked it, but he would probably never admit it. I’ll have to ask him if he has any advice for you. :)

  4. Maybe you’re just gonna have to grit your teeth and get through it.

  5. How are you teaching it? ie. What lessons are you aiming to teach them from it? Because it could be a great way to compare and contrast the two books, and how boys and girls relate/spend time differently sometimes, not to mention how expectations from boys and girls’ behaviors are often different historically. Or you could ask them how they would write about their lives if they had to write about siblings and daily life, and how that compares to Louisa’s take on things. They could be asked to give feedback on Laurie’s actions and how that impacted the girls, or vice versa. Or how the absense of a father-figure’s physical presence affected the girls. Guys need to know this stuff!

  6. Jennifer Blake

    Or you could tell the boys that when they are in college it would be a great pick-up line. “I read “little women” and enjoyed it. I’m just sensitive that way.”

    (Just kidding about that- might be a tad inappropriate for you to talk about picking up chicks to 6th graders.)

  7. For what reason do you want them to read it? If you have a good reason, share it with them then let them deal with the assignment after that.

    A word of caution: if you want the boys to read a “girl” book to even some “cosmic” score, they will not respect you for that. I am not saying that is what your intention is. However our two sons who are 18 and 20 have run into that mentality with female English teachers so often that they have erected a pretty thick wall when it comes to female instructors in that field.

  8. why little women?

    They are studying the 19th century in history and so this year’s literature was to coordinate with that, historical and period fiction. With those parameters, at their reading level (this is supposed to be an accelerated homeschool coop) I think Little Women is a must read. From a literary standpoint, I think she’s an excellent writer without being too difficult, and we’re going to spend a lot of time doing character analysis (in small groups) because of how well she develops each character. For the Civil War period, we’ve also read an edition of Frederick Douglass’ autobiography for children and Across Five Aprils. We finish out the year with Around the World in 80 Days, Secret Garden and The Twenty-One Balloons.

    I had a great talk with them today about it, about being open minded and remembering that they interact with a lot of women (mothers, sisters, etc.) and understanding young women better is not a bad thing. Also, it’s just not manly to say “That’s a girl book, that’s dumb.” It’s manly to rise to a challenge.

    And, to my advantage, the boys that started it said that it wasn’t bad at all, a lot better than they thought it would be.

  10. And. . . the girls (and Laurie) had such good imaginative playing times! Remember the Pickwick Club? I have a friend (mom of sons) who hosted an attic-gathering like Pickwick Club for her TEEN sons and friends. . .

  11. I’m glad it went well. I was going to say that I bet they’ll like it more than thought they would. Even if they won’t admit it! :)

    Good suggestions on the other books–I’m always looking for the next book for my little fifth grade group. Right now we’re reading Island of the Blue Dolphins.

  12. I was about to suggest what you did to handle it – to say it’s not manly to spurn something because it’s “a girl book.” Some of my faves when I was that age were the Little House books – now, my favorite was Farmer Boy, but I liked them all for the history and descriptions of how life was back then, not for the “girls.”

    It made me think about how at the Christian Worldview Student Conference (don’t remember the year), Peter Leithart did a series on Jane Austen and started it off by saying, “Real Men Read Austen.” I don’t remember if I’d read P&P by then, but once I did, I was HOOKED on Jane…I adored her cleverness and implicit commentaries on classism – heady for 11-12 year olds, of course, but the principle that you can glean so much more than just gender from a book still stands. Good job!

  13. Is your class finished reading this book? Our family attends a homeschool co-op and one thing that that helped my oldest (18) with reading Emma (he thinks all JAusten is bor-ing) is that the teacher had her college age son come in and talk about how much he liked this book. He taught the class for the day. Maybe there is a man (or your dh) who could come teach a portion of the book?

    I teach a worldview class and often wish I had a male teaching it or at least co-teaching with me. I think it would challenge & engage the boys more.

  14. under the mountain

    Tell them it’s a sci-fi novel about microscopic humanoid females set in an alternate universe where all the technology is 19th-century Earth and the social customs are very alien to everything they’re familiar with. I’d definitely read that book if I were a 6th grade boy.

  15. I missed the boat on this, but there is a lot of discussion of males as role models in Little Women–with John Brooke as the ideal, Laurie learning to be grow up, and the remarks about men who don’t measure up in the various scenes where the girls meet men from the wider world, at balls, and in the picnic scene.

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