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Henry J. Friedman
Cambridge, Mass.
The writer is an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

To the Editor:

This essay resonates with me. I just returned from a week serving as a first-time Scouts BSA leader to our troop while we attended camp in New Hampshire. Our group had 10 boys and one girl, ranging in age from 10 to 17. Thankfully, my co-leaders were a father-and-son team of Eagle Scouts with a lifelong commitment to scouting (the father serves on the national committee, the son is the cub master for our community).

During the week we spent in camp, I witnessed innumerable social interactions among the Scouts (campwide, about 95 percent boys), supported by the Scout Law, which states that a Scout is “trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.”

I agree wholeheartedly that boys deserve more examples of how to develop and maintain positive social relationships. Social skills, like other skills, require modeling, instruction, coaching and practice to become second nature.

Scouts BSA, despite the well-publicized difficulties, reflecting problems that have existed throughout all reaches of human society, currently provides a safe, time-tested format to foster social skill development side by side with active interests that are designed to engage boys.

Diane Johnson
Cambridge, Mass.

To the Editor:

As a middle-grade author, I’ve often had parents stop by my signing table to ask if my books are “for boys” — and then turn away when I mention that one of my main characters is a girl. Respectfully, the author of this essay may have better luck finding good books for her sons — books that model emotional intelligence and complexity — if she stops looking for “books for boys” and starts looking for books for kids.

Yes, there’s a trend in children’s media toward higher and higher stakes, and it does sometimes feel as if there’s less room on the shelves for the kind of “quiet” stories that a lot of parents grew up reading. But while most of my favorite new children’s books are packed with action and adventure, they’re also packed with empathy. All you have to do to find them is expand your focus past a category that feels like an echo from an earlier time.

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