Unhappy with school reading book

(131 Posts)
Kinect Tue 08-Oct-13 08:01:43

DD is in reception & has three reading books a week. We have a little book to fill in with a note of how DD reacted. Yesterday's book was, "a princess & a dragon'. Story went like this princess, dragon, roar, help, prince, prince saves princess, they are happy.

I have written in the notebook that it is against my feminist principles to read the story with DD.

I am very unhappy about material like this being in school.

Should I take this further with the school?
Or is my comment in the notebook sufficient.

sashh Thu 10-Oct-13 07:50:28

Is there a book that has ever been published for children where a girl rescues a boy? I am not asking facetiously, I've actually never come across one.

I borrowed some from my brother (as an adult) wish I could remember the author.

The prince is a second son and is sent on quest with everyone expecting him to dies. He has to rescue a princess from a dragon, when he gets there the dragon is so fed up of her he sends her off with the prince. She is also a pretty good swordswoman.

The princess spends the rest of the book challenging all the soldiers to sword drill and they start refusing because she beats them.

OP send the note.

<thinks about a career writing children's fiction with female main leads>

ClayDavis Thu 10-Oct-13 01:31:19

It really is bad isn't it? The first time a child read it to me I wasshock. I did get rid of the copies we had.

There's something about the very short, easy read sentences that make the whole 'weak female princess rescued by brave strong prince' much more explicit than in a well written copy of the older fairy tales. It's the complete lack of anything else going on in the story.

Off the top of my head, I think it is the only one like that in the series though. I can't think of any of the others that reinforce negative gender stereotypes so obviously.

Its. The horror blush

Yes I think you should.

My DD is almost 4. Her dad and I share childcare and housework. We both work outside the home, we both have professional careers. Her aunt is a doctor, her grandma a professor. She has plenty of strong female role models within her family.

And she came home from nursery one day telling me that men were doctors and 'ladies' were nurses. Even worse, she was convinced that girls couldn't ever be doctors.

I then asked the nursery about their policy on challenging gender stereotyping and it's implementation. I had no idea if such a thing existed but thought it was worth a shot. It started a good conversation and things I think have changed for the better.

NiceTabard Wed 09-Oct-13 21:50:12

Holy moly if DD came back with that i'd be so hmm my eyebrow would shoot off my face and into orbit!!!

Fortunately she hasn't! That is quite mind-boggling.

BuffytheAppleBobber Wed 09-Oct-13 19:58:43

Yes. That's just... words fail me. I would be talking to the school, in a friendly and constructive way, about stereotyping and equality.

Kinect Wed 09-Oct-13 19:40:56

Does it work now?

BuffytheAppleBobber Wed 09-Oct-13 19:17:46

I think you might need to make your profile public before we can see?

Kinect Wed 09-Oct-13 18:44:22

I've uploaded - hopefully - the photo's I took of the book, unto my profile, is anyone is interested in having a read.

Thanks for those links, I'll have a look thanks

ClayDavis Wed 09-Oct-13 18:11:45

If I'm thinking of the right book, I'm not sure Rigby Star pink level adds a great deal to the canon of children's literature so it could be binned quite easily.

It is possible that if the class has lots of pink level books and the teacher is relatively new to Reception that she doesn't know that book is there. I wouldn't go in all guns blazing but I don't think a quiet word would do any harm.

BuffytheAppleBobber Wed 09-Oct-13 17:58:55

Hear hear Spiritedwolf

One other point about stories like Mulan and Brave, where girls and women strive to be treated as people, is that usually only one girl or women per story gets to have this.

All the other female characters conform to gender stereotypes and therefore we are invited to regard them as lesser than the girl that breaks the mould. Subtext: we might let you be a person, but only if you are better than all the boys. And only you, after you've proved yourself. No other girls.

Spiritedwolf Wed 09-Oct-13 17:03:24

BTW those saying (and I'm paraphrasing) 'I grew up on fairytales, and they didn't harm me" might want to consider that they may well have influenced your opinion that women should "stop making a fuss".

We can provide our children with a cultural wallpaper of gender sterotypes, and ask them to ignore it and hope that will be effective. Or we can start redecorating. We probably have to do both but I don't understand why people think we should only do the former.

Spiritedwolf Wed 09-Oct-13 16:44:59

I am quite unconvinced by the "but its an opportunity for a discussion" argument. Of course, most /books can be an opportunity for a discussion, and it is something some parents (perhaps mainly of girls) will think of doing but that's not the point is it?

Children growing up today don't need us to have 'discussion' to tell them that boys can be courageous, active and save the day. These stories are told a million different times in a childhood - through toys, adverts, books, films, tv, role models, etc. Combating the comparitive dearth of messages about female agency with a simple "girls can do that stuff too" just isn't enough, children will make their own conclusions from the world we provide them with, whatever we say. I don't think it's unreasonable for schools to have a role in challenging society's sterotypes be they of gender, race, sexuality, disability, class etc by providing materials that reflect equality.

A while back, on a previous (not the current) thread about films with positive messages for very young girls, the OP had an interesting requirement. She didn't just want films which passed the Bechdel test, or had a fiesty heroine. She was looking for films which instead of having a women or girl having to struggle against societal expectations (say like Brave or Mulan), just assumed girls had equality in the first place. From memory I think she also wanted films that weren't focused on a romance.

Its amazing how few films suitable for young children fitted those requirements. Kiki's Delivery Service and Lilo and Stitch are the only two that come to my mind now.

Its not that there isn't a place for stories about girls and women striving to be treated as people, stories like Mulan and Brave can be inspiring. But they still reinforce that a woman having agency is unusual, something that needs to be fought for, the heroine is often subject to sexism in the film and that the prevailing view in their world is that girls aren't able to do heroic stuff.

Why can't small girls just take it for granted that they can have adventures and be treated like equal people? Rather than have most of the stories they read either deny them agency, make them a prize or make a big deal about how much they need to fight to be taken as seriously as boys and men are.

Good on you OP. I think that schools ought to take equality seriously. Its not censorship to be fed up of children being fed the same old sterotypes and wondering why a school is feeding children this. How many parents would have read this to their children without 'a discussion'.

I can't guarantee that they won't think you are a bit crazy, but I think its worth the risk if it means that the school thinks more carefully about the materials it buys for children.

scallopsrgreat Wed 09-Oct-13 14:05:46

That's a good point WoTmania. There used to be someone on here who was really good about fairy tales, especially how they have changed from the original and been co-opted into more gender stereotypical stories.

Shallishanti Wed 09-Oct-13 13:42:30

when ds1 was in I think Y4 (many moons ago) he brought back an Enid Blyton book, the famous 5 I think. I was quite shocked the school had given it to him, as, IMO, they should be promoting quality! Anyway I said I would give him 50p if he could find a single instance of a boy preparing food for a girl in the book. Of course he couldn't, so we had a chat about that, and took the book back next day and spoke to the teacher about it. Not sure what she actually thought, but she professed to be shocked they had the book and invited him to chose another book.

WoTmania Wed 09-Oct-13 13:32:00

Isabelle - but in these sorts of cases we're not talking about traditional fairytales - it's new books using the same tired, outdated theme of female gets herself into trouble, female is rescued by male etc.

BuffytheAppleBobber Wed 09-Oct-13 13:22:26

ultimately they understand the difference between fantasy and reality

Do they? Do you? I don't think I do, because I think, particularly when talking about something like culture expressed and reconstructed through language, the line between fantasy and reality is extremely blurred.

These stories are part of our cultural heritage

As is state sanctioned racism, slavery and all sorts of horrid things. Bet you wouldn't like it if one of your dc came home with a book that normalised a black child being stupid, inferior and only fit for servitude. Neither would I, we would all rightly be outraged. Nobody would be giving all the excuses here: don't censor, balance is important, people thought that way in the past etc...

So why the difference when it's girls being told they're weak and need to wait for a boy to rescue them?

Funny how you won't find books in school libraries with golliwogs in or the original Noddy stories where he and Big Ears spanked each other. I guess that cultural status of women as inferior is either a) less important to most people or b) so totally ingrained and normalised that nobody notices it and when someone points it out to them, they think they're being an overly sensitive, PC gorn mad lunatic.

steppemum Wed 09-Oct-13 13:19:21

fairy tales of course do have strong women in them - the wicked stepmother and the witch!

scallopsrgreat Wed 09-Oct-13 13:08:05

Isabelle, women are still considered unequal in society and still subjected to damaging stereotypes that enforce that inequality. These types of books are a small cog in creating those stereotypes.

scallopsrgreat Wed 09-Oct-13 13:05:58

I would agree with you Flicktheswitch if the messages in those books stopped when they got to 6 (or whatever age). But they don't. Girls are taught to be more passive than boys. The messages of those books continues in other literature, films etc. Most rom-coms are based on similar premises of men doing dashing things and women falling in love with them. Women are portrayed as needing rescuing and protecting. They tend not to be the ones doing the rescuing or protecting (unless it is protecting children of course!). They are also reminded how much looks matter on a regular basis.

Marriage is promoted to women and girls as the natural route especially if a man does something perceived as nice. And women are portrayed as always wanting to be in a relationship with a man, obviously. That's what they strive for.

In fact as they get older there are more damaging messages sent to girls about what they should look for in a man. What characteristics are attractive, when in fact those characteristics could also be construed as red flags in a relationship.

So yes it does seem a small thing really. But children do absorb these messages and when they are reinforced throughout their life it does create imbalances and damage.

IsabelleRinging Wed 09-Oct-13 12:56:20

I bet everyone on this thread read fairytales when they were young. It hasn't stopped you being strong independent feminist women, why would it stop your daughters?

Balance is needs, yes, but avoiding a certain genre of book altogether is unnecessary in in my view.

These stories are part of our cultural heritage.

steppemum Wed 09-Oct-13 12:48:35

when I was teaching, I came across a list of books for promoting positive images of women.

It included things like paper bag princess, and Roald Dahls revolting rhymes etc.

When I read the list I laughed out loud, pretty much every book on the list had been given to me by my mum when I was growing up.

She was a great quiet feminist. She never censored anything I read (well, age appropriate until I was old enough) but she constantly fed me a diet of books that promoted good role models.

But talking about it and challenging the stereotype immediately breaks the stereotype open. I often just make a light hearted comment ''Oh look, the prince has rescued her, next time when he needs rescuing she can return the favour, bet she is really good at fighting dragons''

Flicktheswitch Wed 09-Oct-13 12:46:22

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

BuffytheAppleBobber Wed 09-Oct-13 12:35:20

Variety, moderation, yes. But can't you see that 'common sense' is not something that individuals feel is 'common' or indeed 'sensible' without the influence of a society to tell them so?

I don't think one can really appreciate this distinction without going into another culture and talking to people there about what they feel is common sense.

For example, how would you feel about letting your 5 year old out to play in the streets around your house, giving them 50p to spend on whatever they wanted in the shop and not knowing where they are for at least an hour at a time? I would not do this, it would not seem like 'common sense' to me. But I can tell you that I've witnessed this happening in a deprived urban neighbourhood, and spoken to parents who think it's common sense to teach their kids to be self-reliant and streetwise from an early age.

So while I'm not denying you your opinion or your right to make free choices, I am asking you to consider whether those choices are as free from societal influence as they feel. I also wonder why you're so scornful and dismissive of our desires to present a balanced view of what boys and girls can do. Are you saying that the boys are heroes and girls are to be rescued or sidekicks tropes aren't prevalent in most kids literature and media?

curlew Wed 09-Oct-13 12:33:34

You seem to be implying that crap books are a treat..............!

I suspect anyone who has had a girl child knows about the millions of mindless, practically illiterate, 6 words a page pink princess books churned out to appeal to to a small girl audience. And the equal numbers of fairy books for a slightly older group. Early books form a significant part of our children's mental furniture- don't we want that furniture to be good quality strong and beautiful?

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