Typecasting Children; Can Books Help to Open Our Minds and Those of Our Children?
Three recent events led me to consider if I stereotype and genderise children, and in truth I found that I did, although unintentionally. Upon realisation, I reprimanded myself and started to research through some adult books such as Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates (an excellent book) and then I sought out children’s books that completely revolutionise the typecasts and that would allow me to discuss the matter with children that I read to at schools. Below I have identified three books that I think adults and children will adore and get people thinking, but before I tell you about these let me tell you how this journey started.
This voyage of discovery started with an after-school activity that I help with. Something had been forgotten and so I had to run back to retrieve it. Upon jogging back to the group a child said to me; ‘Oh, girls can run?! I didn’t know girls could run.’ As a three-time marathon runner, I was a little vexed by this statement.
The next event was when I found myself doing my day job, encouraging reading and retailing books to parents and children. When a young girl asked me for a recommendation I immediately showed her a ballet series of books. To which she wrinkled up her nose to me and said with some annoyance; ‘I like karate not ballet’. This moment was a real reprimand for me as I should have asked her interests and types of books she enjoyed.
The final event was when secret Santa was being organised in one of my children’s classes. The teacher sent out an email asking for the parents to organise a gift and mark whether it was for a ‘Boy, Girl or Neutral’. Aren’t all toys neutral? Well they should be. Who’s is to say that girls don’t like the same things as boys and vice versa. I am sure we could all quote many anecdotes about our own children showing a preference for a toy that is usually deemed or marketed for the opposite gender.
This article is not trying to say that there are no gender differences but what I am trying to say is that when children are so young and so open to new ideas we should do our utmost to encourage their minds to be open. Not just about what boys and girls like or do but to challenge conventions, and let them colour the sea orange and an elephant purple if they want. Why not? And here are three books that I feel help us and our children think about things differently, and they do it beautifully. They are not only absolutely perfect at turning stereotypes on their heads but they are also funny, engaging and the types of books you and your children will want to read again and again. So go forth and seek them out, you won’t be disappointed.
And on a personal note, thank you to all those children who on a daily basis challenge my assumptions.
Further Information: Recommended Reading
Dogs Don’t Do Ballet by Anna Kemp, Sara Ogilvie
Biff is not like ordinary dogs. He doesn’t do dog stuff like peeing on lampposts, scratching his fleas or drinking out of toilets. Biff likes music and moonlight and walking on his tiptoes… Watch the video
The Worst Princess by Anna Kemp, Sara Ogilvie
Author Anna Kemp and illustrator Sara Ogilvie turn a traditional fairy tale on its royal head in this bright and funny rhythmic story that will have readers of all ages cheering along for The Worst Princess!
The Day The Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, Oliver Jeffers
Crayons have feelings, too, in this funny back-to-school story illustrated by the creator of Stuck and This Moose Belongs to Me – now a #1 New York Times bestseller! Poor Duncan just wants to color.
Last updated: Thursday 7th January, 2016
* I own a pop-up book shop and I appear at schools, kindergartens, clubs and libraries throughout Europe, but especially Luxembourg. I am half English and half French, grew up in Spain and have lived in all these countries and Germany. I now live in Luxembourg. I have 2 children who are bilingual aged 10 and 5. I previously worked for a number of big corporations but fortunately I decided to start my own business selling children’s books and it is absolutely the best job I have ever had.