This is the first in-depth study of gender issues in early literacy learning. It provides vivid portraits of the difficulties that both boys and girls experience in learning to read and write at home and in classrooms due to gendered divisions of labor in families and schools. The portraits are based on data from a three-year ethnographic study, in which learning biographies were constructed for thirteen children from their entry into kindergarten until the completion of second grade. The biographies show that in learning to read and write, children construct gendered identities and negotiate their social relations with parents, siblings, teachers, and peers. Even in supportive families and progressive classrooms, children face difficulties in literacy learning as a result of family and classroom practices organizing literacy on the dimensions of male/female and work/play. The result is often the unwitting perpetuation of traditional gender roles in families, schools, and the larger society. This account of early literacy learning links the personal and social meaning of literacy in children's everyday lives with the larger cultural and political significance of gender. The theoretical arguments and questions raised in the book challenge prevailing psychological and sociocultural models of literacy learning and set the agenda for future research on literacy and gender.