ABDO speaks out about Biggest, Baddest Books series

December 4, 2014 • Minneapolis, MN

ABDO (abdopublishing.com), the company responsible for publishing the Biggest, Baddest Books children’s series, has recently been in the public eye in relation to the story about 7-year-old Parker Dains of Milpitas, CA. ABDO, a leading educational publisher, would like to take the opportunity to share their comments on the company’s role in the story.

Months ago, ABDO received a letter from Ms. Dains that couldn’t be missed. The envelope was decorated with colorful drawings and stickers. The words inside were kind, thoughtful, respectful, and above all made a good point: bugs, dinosaurs, and outer space books can appeal to boys AND girls.

“We were touched by her letter and appreciated her request for inclusivity. She had courage to write to us about something that bothered her and we agreed to change it,” states Paul Abdo, Editor-in-Chief of ABDO. The series name went from Biggest, Baddest Books for Boys to Biggest, Baddest Books. And last month, as promised, we sent her advance copies of each of the upcoming books in Biggest, Baddest Books Set 2—without “for Boys” in the title.

Over the past week, we’ve read numerous articles and watched her interviews, and—like her letter—Parker’s personality is strong, clever, and bright. “We are impressed with the difference she has made at such a young age, and know that this moment of impact will stay with her and us for years to come,” adds Abdo.

He continues, “We would like to clarify that what our company did was to take the time to listen to a young reader. We made this change because she makes a great point and we agree with her that girls can love this series just as much as boys can.”

The ABDO title list of nearly 5,000 titles highlights a myriad of educational topics, and in some cases, celebrates the differences between boys and girls. It’s true that some boys’ interests differ from the majority, as does girls’, however, ABDO believes in equality for both genders, and the company’s ultimate goal is to simply support literacy for all students, regardless of gender.

In the case of concepting the original Biggest, Baddest Books series, we were working to help educators address the reading gap between boys and girls. We are grateful for the opportunity to draw attention to this issue today. Reports from the Center on Education Policy have documented in stark terms how badly boys are lagging behind girls in reading scores.

Jack Jennings, the CEP’s President and CEO, has said, “Although the gaps . . . are not nearly as large as those found between racial/ethnic and income subgroups, they are telling and have serious implications for the futures of all our students.” Both the CEP findings and other experts noted there is also concern that boys are not engaged in learning and are disconnecting from school, to a noticeable degree.

While we believe that it’s our responsibility to continue to address the individual needs and interests of both boys and girls (for instance, creating a STEM-promoting biography series called Women in Science), we also wholeheartedly agree that explicitly labeling a book as for a boy or for a girl does the reader a great disservice. We do not ever want our books to discourage a reader from exploring the topics that naturally interest him or her, and we applaud the Let Books Be Books campaign for their efforts to change this kind of labeling.

As an educational publisher, our goal is always to serve the best interests of our readers. That includes supporting their educational goals, regardless of their gender. In doing so, we must also support those who serve these readers most: their librarians. One of our wonderful librarians, Deborah Lucas, in an email to us earlier this year, said, “I’ve known many children through the years who do not follow expectations for their gender . . . . I don’t want any of them to be a bit self-conscious about the books they are curious to read. I just want them to read!” We couldn’t agree with her sentiments more.

About ABDO

ABDO, a family-owned company, has been publishing educational materials for more than 30 years, including library bound hardcover editions and a variety of digital products. The company is comprised of five divisions: Abdo Publishing, Magic Wagon, Spotlight, Abdo Kids, and Abdo Digital. For more information, visit ABDO online at abdopublishing.com.

Please note: Biggest Baddest Books Set 2 is now available for purchase. Biggest, Baddest Books Set 1 hardcovers currently in stock have the original series name, Biggest, Baddest Books for Boys Set 1. These titles will be reprinted as Biggest, Baddest Books Set 1, as supply dictates.

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