Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Gender Roles in Children's Books

This semester, I took a Children's Literature class. It's been an interesting class so far; we've learned about nursery rhymes and picture books and novels. We've discussed illustrations as art. And we've discussed censorship and "different perspectives" (which my teacher defined as, books about individuals who are "different" from us). Two weeks from finals, and we haven't discussed a certain topic, and this really surprises/upsets me.

Gender roles portrayed in children's books!

Traditional gender roles are typically forced onto children from a young age through images they see on TV, the toys they play with, their parents, and yes even children's books.
Girls are typically nurturers and passive. Boys are typically adventurers and independent.
But, let's face it, not every girl wants to play with dolls and restaurant sets, and not every boy wants to play sports or cops and robbers.

I'll bypass fairy tales and tall tales, because I'm sure we all know those are filled to the brim with sexist bull crap. But, several decades after women's rights movements, books portraying traditional gender roles (and occasionally, in the case of Douglas Wood's What Moms Can't Do ans What Dads Can't Do, sexist bull crap) line the shelves of libraries.

Of 35 of these recommended picture books showing girls pursuing non-traditional gender roles I could find only 15 in my university library.
Of 21 of these recommended picture books showing boys pursuing non-traditional gender roles I could only find 6 in my university library.

Strictly considering picture books, of my university's there are about 16 other books portraying non-traditional gender roles. In a library with four long rows of children's book

I'm not saying boycott the rest of the books because many still teach important values. I'm saying add more books that portray non-traditional gender roles. Books are important in helping young readers develop a perception of themselves as well as society. To incorporate most books portraying non-traditional gender roles could help relieve totally preposterous gender stereotypes.

To read more on gender roles in children's books, check out this article.


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