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NCTE Guideline

Guidelines for a Gender-Balanced Curriculum in English Grades 7-12

Prepared by the Women in Literature and Life Assembly (WILLA) of NCTE, 1990
(known as the Gender and Literacy Assembly (GALA) of NCTE beginning in 2015)

Gender equity does not exist in business, in academics, or athletics. One other place equity does not exist is within the scope of our English language arts curriculum. In part, the inequity in the curriculum is one of invisibility-fewer female than male protagonists are represented in books written for adolescents, particularly in the works of the traditional canon. Additionally few of those young female protagonists are strong enough of mind, body, or will to serve as positive role models for the young women in our classrooms.

Another facet of the inequity in literature is that many characters are not shown as multidimensional humans with strengths as well as weaknesses. Instead, both males and females display behavior and traits that reflect stereotyped roles, responsibilities, and expectations. Although there may be segments of our society that are redefining gender roles, the female and male characters adolescents read about are often locked into traditional roles and behaviors.

As teachers and adults who work with adolescents, we advocate wide reading of good literature as one way for students to have vicarious experiences in which they can identify with strong characters across a wide range of human experiences which cross traditional gender boundaries. But if texts and the characters in them remain gender-bound, the ideas which might cause adolescents to develop expectations for the future, responses to life's events, and stances on issues may also remain stereotypically gender-bound.

We must all search for texts that will initiate conversations and questions about gender roles and the perceptions of appropriate behavior and activities. Through these conversations and questions, teachers can be instrumental in helping students reflect on gendered expectations. Teachers can challenge those expectations by showing options and alternatives so readers seek to confront the inequities they find in their own lives.

There are many contemporary classics which are already in place in our curriculum, such as I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and The Diary of Anne Frank. The purpose of this guide is to bring to your attention more recent titles in order to augment your curriculum and to assist you in addressing the concerns of today's young adult readers.

The following booklist, the activities, and the teacher resources provide a starting place. We invite each of you to continue to find other resources and to share them with your students and your peers.

A selected booklist for gender-balanced curriculum in English language arts: Grades 7-12

Fiction: Short Stories and Collections

  • Bauer, Marion Dane, ed. Am I Blue?: Coming Out from the Silence
    • "Blood Sister" Jane Yolen
    • "Slipping Away" Jacqueline Woodson
    • "We Might As Well Be Strangers" M. E. Kerr
    • "Winnie and Tommy" Francesca Lia Block
  • Block, Francesca Lia. Girl Goddess #9
  • Carlson, Lori M. American Eyes: New Asian-American Short Stories for Young Adults
  • Crutcher, Chris. Athletic Shorts "The Other Pin"
  • Freeman, Mary Wilkins. "The Revolt of Mother"
  • Gallo, Don, ed. Connections
    • "Dear Marsha" Judie Angell
    • "Fairy Tale" Todd Strasser
    • "Life's a Beach" Sue Ellen Bridgers
    • "Love Potion" Cin Forshay-Lunsford
    • "Mildred" Colby Rodowsky
  • Gallo, Don, ed. No Easy Answers
    • "Bliss at the Burger Bar" Louise Plummer
    • "Eva and the Major" Jean Davies Okomoto
    • "Simon Says" Monica Hughes
    • "Stranger" Walter Dean Myers
  • Gallo, Don, ed. Short Circuits
    • "The Hoppins" Annette Curtis Klause
    • "There's a Tomb Waiting for You" Joan Lowery Nixon
    • "TLA" Jane McFann
  • Gallo, Don, ed. Sixteen
    • "The Gift-Giving" Joan Aiken
    • "I, Hungry Hannah Cassandra Glen" Norma Fox Mazer
    • "Midnight Snack" Diane Duane
    • "Pigeon Humor" Susan Beth Pfeffer
    • "Priscilla and the Wimps" Richard Peck
    • "She" Rosa Guy
  • Gallo, Don, ed. Ultimate Sports
    • "Brownian Motion" Virginia Euwer Wolff
    • "Cutthroat" Norma Fox Mazer
    • "Sea Changes" Tessa Duder
    • "Stealing for Girls" Will Weaver
  • Gallo, Don, ed. Visions
    • "The Good Girls" Fran Arrick
    • "Great Moves" Sandy Asher
    • "Shadows" Richard Peck
  • Gilchrist, Ellen. "Revenge"
  • Giovanni, Nikki, ed. Grandmothers
  • Jewett, Sarah Orne. "White Heron"
  • Keillor, Garrison. "What Did We Do Wrong?"
  • Labozzetta, Marisa. "Offsides"
  • Lessing, Doris. "The Old Chief Mshlanga"
  • Mazer, Anne. America Street
    • "Raymond's Run" Toni Cade Bambera
    • "The All-American Slurp" Lensey Namioka
  • Oates, Joyce Carol. "Golden Gloves"
  • Sayles, John. "The 7-10 Split"
  • Spenser, Elizabeth. "The Girl Who Loved Horses"
  • Straight, Susan. "Off Season"
  • Soto, Gary. Baseball in April. "Marble Champ"
  • Taylor, Theodore. "Walking Up a Rainbow"
  • Thomas, Joyce Carol. A Gathering of Flowers
    • "After the War" Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston
    • "Yng Reverend Zelma Lee Moses" Joyce Carol Thomas
  • Van Winckel, Nance. "Coming To"
  • Weiss, Jerry, and Helen Weiss. From One Experience to Another
  • Wilson, Budge. The Leaving
  • Yep, Laurence. American Dragons
    • "Dana's Eyes" Nicol Juratovac
    • "Hollywood and the Pits" Cherylene Lee
    • "There's No Reason to Get Romantic" Ann Tashi Slater
    • "Who's Hu" Lensey Namioka

Contemporary Realistic Fiction

  • Adler, C. S. Youn Hee and Me
  • Arrick, Fran. What You Don't Know Can Kill You 
  • Banks, Lynne Reid. One More River 
  • Block, Francesca Lia. The Hanged Man 
  • Brancato, Robin. Winning 
  • Creech, Sharon. Walk Two Moons 
  • Crew, Linda. Children of the River 
  • Deaver, Julie Reece. Say Goodnight, Gracie 
  • Dickinson, Peter. A Bone from a Dry Sea 
  • Dorris, Michael. Morning Girl. Yellow Raft In Blue Water 
  • Duder, Tessa. In Lane Three, Alex Archer 
  • Dygard, Thomas J. Forward Pass 
  • Garcia-Williams, Rita. Blue Tights. Like Sisters on the Homefront 
  • Garland, Sherry. Song of the Buffalo Boy 
  • Grant, Cynthia D. Uncle Vampire 
  • Guy, Rosa. The Music of Summer 
  • Hobbs, Will. Downriver. River Thunder 
  • Hotze, Sollace. Acquainted With the Night 
  • Hudson, Jan. Dawn Rider 
  • Johnson, Angela. Humming Whispers. Toning the Sweep 
  • Kerr, M. E. Deliver Us from Evie 
  • Klass, Sheila Solomon. Rhino 
  • Krishner, Trudy. Kinship. Spite Fences 
  • Laird, Elizabeth. Kiss the Dust 
  • Lee, Marie G. Finding My Voice 
  • Mazer, Harry. The Island Keeper 
  • Naidoo, Beverly. Chain of Fire 
  • Namioka, Lensey. April and the Dragon Lady 
  • Plummer, Louise. The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman 
  • Rylant, Cynthia. Missing May 
  • Staples, Suzanne Fisher. Arena Beach. Haveli 
  • Stoehr, Shelley. Crosses. Weird on the Outside 
  • Voigt, Cynthia. When She Hollers 
  • Willey, Margaret. The Melinda Zone 
  • Wolff, Virginia Euwer. Make Lemonade. The Mozart Season 
  • Woodson, Jacqueline. From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun. I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This

Fantasy/Science Fiction

  • Barron, T. A. The Ancient One. Heartlight 
  • Carlile, Clancy. Children of the Dust 
  • Hesse, Karen. Phoenix Rising 
  • Hughes, Monica. Invitation to the Game 
  • Klaus, Annette. Blood and Chocolate 
  • Patton, Sarah. The Green Book 
  • O'Brien, Robert C. Z for Zachariah 
  • Wrede, Patricia C. Dealing with Dragons

Historical Fiction

  • Avi. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle 
  • Cooney, Caroline B. Across Time 
  • Cushman, Karen. Catherine, Called Birdy. The Midwife's Apprentice 
  • Garland, Sherry. Indio 
  • Gregory, Kristina. Earthquake at Dawn 
  • Hesse, Karen. Letters from Rifka 
  • Houston, Gloria. Mountain Valor 
  • Hadley, Irwin. Kim/Kimi 
  • Meyer, Carolyn. White Lilacs 
  • Paterson, Katherine. Lyddie 
  • Pullman, Philip. The Ruby in the Smoke
    • Shadow in the North
    • The Tiger in the Well 
  • Rinaldi, Ann. Last Silk Dress in the Confederacy. Wolf by the Ears 
  • Roth-Hano, Renee. Touchwood 
  • Stevens, Bryna. Frank Thompson: Her Civil War Story 
  • Taylor, Mildred. Road to Memphis


  • Tomlinson, Theresa. The Forestwife 
  • Hamilton, Virginia. Her Stories: African American Folktales. The People Could Fly 
  • McKinley, Robin. Beauty 
  • Yolen, Jane. Briar Rose

Nonfiction: Biography/Autobiography

  • Ashby, Ruth, and Deborah Gore Ohrn, eds. Herstory: Women Who Changed the World 
  • Connolly, Pat. Coaching Evelyn: Fast, Faster, Fastest Woman in the World 
  • Ferris, Jeri. What I Had Was Singing: The Story of Marian Anderson 
  • Freedman, Russell. Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery 
  • Johnston, Andrea. Girls Speak Out: Finding Your True Self 
  • Lanker, Brian. I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America 
  • Levine, Ellen. Freedom's Children: Young Civil Rights Activists Tell Their Own Stories 
  • Lowery, Linda. Wilma Mankiller 
  • Parks, Rosa (with Jim Haskins). My Story 
  • Plowden, Martha Ward. Olympic Black Women 
  • Riddles, Libby. Race across Alaska: First Woman to Win the Iditarod Tells Her Story 
  • Sherr, Lynn, and J. Kazickas. Susan B. Anthony Slept Here 
  • Stanley Jerry. Big Annie of Calumet 
  • Stefoff, Rebecca. Women of the World: Women Travelers and Explorers 
  • Uchida, Yoshiko. The Invisible Thread 
  • Wohlmuth, Sharon J., and Carol Saline. Mothers and Daughters 
  • Vinke, Hermann. The Short Life of Sophie Scholl

Personal Narrative

  • Beals, Melba Pattillo. Warriors Don't Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock's Central High 
  • Carlip, Hillary. Girl Power: Young Women Speak Out 
  • Lyons, Mary. Keeping Secrets: The Girlhood Diaries of Seven Women Writers 
  • Marshall, Paule. "Brown Girl, Brown Stones." "Poets in the Kitchen" 
  • Sender, Ruth Minsky. The Cage


  • Briggs, Carole S. At the Controls: Women in Aviation 
  • Chang, Ina. A Separate Battle: Women and the Civil War 
  • Colman, Penny. Rosie the Riveter: Women Working on the Homefront in WWII 
  • Dash, Joan. We Shall Not Be Moved: The Women's Factory Strike of 1909
  • Fireside, Bryna J. Is There a Woman in the House or Senate? 
  • Gavin, Lettie. American Women in World War I: They Also Served 
  • Gregorich, Barbara. Women at Play: The Story of Women in Baseball 
  • Macy, Sue. Winning Ways: A Photohistory of American Women in Sports 
  • Miller, Brandon Marie. Buffalo Gals: Women of the Old West 
  • Rochelle, Belinda. Witnesses to Freedom 
  • Rochman, Hazel, and Darlene Z. McCampbell, eds. Bearing Witness: Stories of the Holocaust 
  • Savage, Candace. Cowgirls 
  • Shannon, Jacqueline. Why It's Great to Be a Girl 
  • Sheafer, Silvia Anne. Women in America's Wars 
  • Tashlik, Phyllis. Hispanic, Female, and Young: An Anthology 
  • Vare, Ethlie Ann, and Greg Ptacek. Women Inventors and Their Discoveries 
  • Yount, Lisa. Contemporary Women Scientists


  • Churchill, Caryl. The Girls 
  • Glaspell, Susan. Trifles 
  • Hansberry, Lorraine. A Raisin in the Sun 
  • Hellman, Lillian. Children's Hour 
  • Henley, Beth. Crimes of the Heart. Little Miss Firecracker 
  • O'Neil, Eugene. Moon for the Misbegotten. Mourning Becomes Electra 
  • Strindberg, August. The Stronger 
  • Wasserstein, Wendy. A Couple of White Chicks Sittin' Around Talking. The Heidi Chronicles 
  • Wilson, August. Fences. Ma Rainey's Black Bottom


  • Alvarez, Julia. Missing the Zebras 
  • Duffy, Carol Ann, ed. I Wouldn't Thank You for a Valentine 
  • Fletcher, Ralph. Poems about Love 
  • Holbrook, Sarah. Chicks Up Front. Nothing's the End of the World 
  • Joshlin, Isabel, ed. Dreams of Glory: Poems Starring Girls 
  • Nye, Naomi Shihab, and Paul B. Janeczko, eds. I Feel a Little Jumpy around You: A Book ofHer Poems and His Poems Collected in Pairs 
  • Rylant, Cynthia. Something Permanent 
  • Volavkovd, Hana, ed. I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Children's Drawings and Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp 1942-1944


  • Bauermeister, Erica, Jesse Larsen, and Holly Smith. 500 Great Books by Women. New York: Penguin, 1994. 
  • Bauermeister, Erica, and Holly Smith. Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. New York: Penguin, 1997. 
  • Kelly, Patricia. "Gender Issues and the Young Adult Novel." In Reading Their World: The Young Adult Novel in the Classroom. Eds. V. R. Monseau and G. M. Salvner. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 1993. 154-167. 
  • Litton, Joyce A. "Dreams, Guys, Lies, and Occasionally Books: The Young Women of the 'Freshman Dorm' Series." ALAN Review 22.2 (1995): 10-13.
  • _______. "The Sweet Valley High Gang Goes to College." ALAN Review 24.1 (1996): 20-23. 
  • McCracken, Nancy Mellin, and Bruce C. Appleby, eds. Gender Issues in the Teaching of English. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 1992.
  • McCracken, Nancy, Donald H. Evan, and Kelly Wilson. "Resisting Gender-Binding in MiddleSchool." Voices from the Middle 3.1 (1996): 4-10. 
  • Mitchell, Diana. "Approaching Race and Gender Issues in the Context of the Language ArtsClassroom: Teaching Ideas." English Journal 85.8 (1996): 77-81. 
  • Odean, Kathleen. Great Books for Girls: More than 600 Books to Inspire Today's Girls and Tomorrow's Women. New York: Ballantine, 1997. 
  • Speigel, Lisa A., ed. Females in Adolescent Literature. Ottawa, KS: The Writing Conference, Inc., 1996. 
  • Teasley, Alan, and Ann Wilder. Reel Conversations: Reading Films with Young Adults. New York: Heinemann, 1997. 
  • Whaley, Liz, and Liz Dodge. Weaving in the Women: Transforming the High School English Curriculum. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 1993.

Ideas for building a more balanced English language arts curriculum in your English classroom

  1. Weave books about, for, and by women/girls into every aspect of the curriculum, especially materials that show females as active participants in life and able to succeed in any endeavor, rather than passive observers and recipients of the actions and decisions of others.
  2. Take a global view of language by valuing the stories and writing of people from all cultural groups and walks of life.
  3. Privilege the more feminine styles/forms of writing by asking students to read and write in many formats, including diaries, journals, and dramas.
  4. Compare the ways in which males and females are portrayed in various genres and works of literature.
  5. Build an understanding of gender roles as affected by cultural mores by pairing Suzanne Fisher Staple's Haveli and Lensey Namioka's April and the Dragon Lady.
  6. Examine the role of gender in media and analyze the ways in which girls/women/boys/men may be defined stereotypically.
  7. Include nonprint media which presents girls/women/boys/men in positive and non-stereotypic roles.
  8. Pair books with similar themes or topics to include both a male and female protagonist. For example when reading an identity novel with a male character such as Robert Cormier's Chocolate War, also read Sharon Creech's book Walk Two Moons, which features the struggles of a girl character.
  9. Pair a work from the traditional canon such as The Diary of Anne Frank with a more recent work that explores similar lives, struggles, or era such as Jane Yolen's Briar Rose. (See Kaywell's Complement to the Classics or Herz and Gallo's From Hinton to Hamlet.)
  10. Use children's literature to help students explore complex issues and themes through illustrations and simplified story lines; for example, Anthony Browne's Piggybook or Faith Ringgold's Tar Beach.
  11. Implement classroom strategies such as literature circles and response groups to ensure personal engagement with the text's concerns and encourage the voicing of variant opinions.
  12. Institute a reading workshop to approach literature by providing for individual choice as well as differences in preference and reading level.

This position statement may be printed, copied, and disseminated without permission from NCTE.

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