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.

Pooka Tue 08-Oct-13 08:09:29

I'm sure your comment will be sufficient.

beansmum Tue 08-Oct-13 08:13:19

I don't know - I would have read it, and talked to dd about it, and maybe followed it with The Paperbag Princess. Then I would have spoken to the class teacher (assuming they're at all approachable) and told them that I wasn't happy. I'm not sure I'd take it any further than that. Which doesn't answer your actual question...

Pooka Tue 08-Oct-13 08:19:24

I'm fascinated by the idea that you will monitor books and prevent reading them on the basis of their feminist credentials.

Going with what beansmum has said, you've missed the opportunity for a feminist critique and to educate your dd. if I had a fundamental issue with an early reader, we'd read it and then I'd explain issues. Bit like every time I read angelina ballerina (because dd loved them) I'd have a commentary about the ways in which angelina was being a pain in the arse. Ditto with my naughty little sister.

kilmuir Tue 08-Oct-13 08:21:42

But its a story, made up, blah blah. Get a bloody grip. Tell her that women do not have to be rescued by a male, but in this story she is. Maybe the prince is homosexual,?

SavoyCabbage Tue 08-Oct-13 08:27:07

Just counteract it with your own information and stories. Some princesses will need to be rescued some will not. Not every story can encompass every scenario every time.

meditrina Tue 08-Oct-13 08:34:08

If all the books were like this, then maybe you'd have a point. IME early readers provide a good mix.

Your possible actions are to a) provide other reading material at home, b) use stories to discuss wider themes and c) offer to buy new reception material for the school (budgets mean wholesale replacement by the school is unlikely, but donations are welcomed).

Talking to your DC about what is happening in the story, so they develop critical awareness, is probably the most important. Your DD is probably already aware that she is not a princess and that dragons don't exist.

DramaQueenofHighCs Tue 08-Oct-13 08:40:50

This has got to be a windup!! So you'd oh have men saved by men and women saved by women then? Would you have happily read it if it had been a prince being rescued by a princess? Such double standards if so as feminism should be about equality. If you want to go down the over anylising line: the prince in the story would've undergone many years of fighting training to be able to rescue the princess so therefore he is a trained professional and not rescuing her just because he's a man. If your house was on fire would you refuse to get rescued by a man because it is against your principals as it makes you seem 'weaker' than them? Women get rescued by men sometimes and men get rescued by women sometimes. GAFG!!

It's people like you that give feminism a bad name because you're so OTT. As I said, it's about equality so just make sure you read DD some stories where women are the strong characters too. If you only read ones where women are strong characters then you're just as bad as those you complain about and with nobody being the 'strong' one books will get very boring very quickly!

psychomum5 Tue 08-Oct-13 09:01:11

kilmuir

"But its a story, made up, blah blah. Get a bloody grip. Tell her that women do not have to be rescued by a male, but in this story she is. Maybe the prince is homosexual,?"...You just made me snort my coffee!!

Yeah, what she said!! (or maybe he....should I be assigning gender confusedhmm)

Books from school are just to get them started on the chore of reading nightly, which WILL be a chore when you hit Biff and Chip.

Seriously, you will be BEGGING for princesses and dragons by the time you get drowned by the Biff and Chip books!

CrowmarshGibbon Tue 08-Oct-13 09:11:01

dramaqueen - why can't the Princess rescue herself? I think self reliance is a good principle to teach children rather than sitting around and waiting for someone else - male or female - to fix things for them.

beansmum Tue 08-Oct-13 09:14:36

I reckon fighting a dragon is probably a two person job

PeterParkerSays Tue 08-Oct-13 09:17:52

We have 4 pages of Biff, Chip, Dad etc try to knock apple out of tree, wield stick at tree, knock apple off, dog eats apple.

As a one-off book, I wouldn't raise it, but maybe have a word if your daughter's continually getting princess type stories.

BuffytheAppleBobber Tue 08-Oct-13 09:26:00

I agree with others who've said take it as an opportunity to develop critical awareness of these types of messages. Let's face it, they're everywhere! Better to help dc to question them, because you can't block them all.

To those who say "get a grip, you're over thinking it". Pah! It's these types of messages that socialise our girls into accepting this type of thing. We should all be challenging this and seeking out strong female role models for our daughters so they can develop into independent minded people who can think for themselves (and when I say strong, I don't mean physically I mean confident, self reliant, all those things).

kim147 Tue 08-Oct-13 09:36:24

I was working in a nursery and "got trapped in the book corner" by 3 girls who wanted some books reading.

So many stories were based on the boy as hero and the girl being saved / looking good.

Once you start looking, the messages are everywhere.

Are you sure your dd didn't choose it herself? Ours go and choose from a box. Maybe your dd wants to read about princesses? The teachers would I am sure love for you to come and help them all choose appropriate books.

curlew Tue 08-Oct-13 09:40:39

I do think we need to think very carefully about the messages we send our girls. And our boys. And a lot of books aimed at girls are of the type the OP outlines. I think it's a good idea to make sure the teacher is aware. There are some fantastic princess stories with a "less traditional" theme- maybe talk to the PTA about providing some dosh to update the Reception book corner?

minihahawithafringe Tue 08-Oct-13 09:43:23

i had lots of issues with books at school....

Mrs Large goes on a diet and cant have cake....whole story about her denying herself....then gives in and eats the cake saying i'm fine as i am.

the three bears go to goldilocks house to trash it because they were so angry with her for trashing her house

my dd is 10 now and these are two of the stories that i remember off the top of my head. i felt like i was there every week when she was tiny

ICameOnTheJitney Tue 08-Oct-13 09:44:47

OP I'm with you however....I won't argue against the millions of sexist books out there with schools etc...what I DO do is discuss "real" princesses with my DD. Tell her that they do things like Diana did....campaign against injustice and do brave stuff...I explain that they wear jeans and boots unless they're going out to a party...and that they ride horses and have careers.

I also say things like "Well I wonder why she didn't just slay that dragon herself...I would have. Wouldn't you DD?"

And I balance it by buynig books with strong girls in them.

BlackberrySeason Tue 08-Oct-13 09:46:16

I would read the book - make it about a person rescuing another person and look for a countering book where a girl rescues a boy.

You can then focus on the main theme from your point of view - Rescuing someone who needs help = good.

ICameOnTheJitney Tue 08-Oct-13 09:47:35

Can I recommend The Night Pirates by Peter Harris as a great book for little girls of about 5, 6 and maybe 7. It's about a little boy who goes to sleep only to be invited onto the pirate ship of three little girl pirates who take him on an adventure.

I love the way Peter Harris has stopped the girls from being the docile character who stuff happens to and made the girls into the active lead characters.

BuffytheAppleBobber Tue 08-Oct-13 09:48:11

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.

FrauMoose Tue 08-Oct-13 09:48:52

I'd recommend 'Reckless Ruby'....

ICameOnTheJitney Tue 08-Oct-13 09:49:52

DramaQueen Bless you for your concern about men...as you say, the problem is lack of equality....which is why we need to work hard to balance the fucking HUGE amount of wishy washy shite books with weak little prissy arses of girls for characters by fucking them off for some which switch the roles.

When there is an EQUAL amount of books with strong female characters THEN maybe you can shite on with "what about the menz">> and wring your hands over them.

pictish Tue 08-Oct-13 09:50:31

The Paper Bag Princess is a story about a princess rescuing a prince from a dragon.
It has a funny ending as well.

ICameOnTheJitney Tue 08-Oct-13 09:50:53

Buffy The Night Pirates has little girls who take a boy on an adventure and then control the action...they overcome some bad pirates and then take the boy back home.

pictish Tue 08-Oct-13 09:51:37

I also recommend The Worst Princess, in which the main character is totally unimpressed with her rescuer, and teams up with a dragon instead.

BuffytheAppleBobber Tue 08-Oct-13 09:54:41

DH bought dd the Worst Princess, she loves that one! I will check out the others, thanks. She's 7 and very into Holly Web and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home books, so animals rather than princesses. But I'd like to find something with more of an adventure in it, with a strong female lead.

BuffytheAppleBobber Tue 08-Oct-13 09:57:02

Um, sorry to be picky and all, but Amazon says:

"One night, young Tom is awoken by noises outside his house. He peeps out of the window and what should he see but PIRATES. And stranger still - they're GIRL PIRATES stealing the front of his house!"

Why would it be stranger sill that they're GIRL pirates? I mean, I know its strange to us because we are adults and get the whole stereotyping. But I'd have thought it would be better not to emphasise that it's weird to have GIRL pirates to young kids, if the point is to go against all the stereotyping.

pictish Tue 08-Oct-13 09:57:58

I think you can be too serious about these things though. wink

ICameOnTheJitney Tue 08-Oct-13 09:59:47

Buffy I know what you're saying but it goes on to say "Rough tough girl pirates who are brave and strong" or something and it's better than nothing.

Also a child will want it pointed out...my DD loves it and as she's that type, a bit rough and tough I am glad to have some role models in books for her. Children are acutely aware of gender by 5 and are always marking stuff out as "for girls" and "for boys" and a book like this one is good as it spells it out...breaks the rules and shouts out about it.

ICameOnTheJitney Tue 08-Oct-13 10:01:54

It should be remembered that it works both ways and that boys are flooded with stories about how they have to be the strong rescuer. I have one book...can't recall it's title but it's about a little knight who is terrified of having to go off on a mission...his dad makes him go to slay the dragon and all they way he's beset with misery and fear. Then he meets the dragon who is very nice and kind and he brings him home for a pet.

Very good for busting the stereotypes.

kim147 Tue 08-Oct-13 10:05:18

I think I've just seen a whole new potential market of reading books opening up grin

beansmum Tue 08-Oct-13 10:05:21

I thought it was strange because pirates are usually adults - not because they're usually male.

ICameOnTheJitney Tue 08-Oct-13 10:09:06

Bean well yes but it's a book...fantasy! If you applied that logic to children's literature in general you'd be left very confused.

beansmum Tue 08-Oct-13 10:20:49

Fantasy can be logical. Seeing child pirates outside the house is weird, even within the context of the story. It's stranger than seeing adult pirates and it's not merely strange because the children are girls. What am I going on about? I've confused myself now.

tinkerbellvspredator Tue 08-Oct-13 10:29:48

Tough Princess is good, although she is quite violent so I do have to do a bit of talking around that!

Willemdefoeismine Tue 08-Oct-13 10:34:42

If you're concerned with such books just wait until your DD (7) brings home a Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus story for home-reading.....as mine has recently done hmm.

BlackberrySeason Tue 08-Oct-13 10:50:39

Doesn't Ronia the Robber's daughter rescue someone?

BlackberrySeason Tue 08-Oct-13 10:52:37

The worst witch definitely rescues people, but mostly other girls iirc

SooticaTheWitchesCat Tue 08-Oct-13 11:02:25

Are you serious - you complained about a book because the prince rescued the Princess? Aren't most fairy tales like that? Have you never read Sleeping Beauty, Snow White or Cinderella to your child?

I love those kind of stories and so do my girls. They know a prince is never going to rescue them in real life but in a story it's fine.

I could think of a lot worse to read...

CailinDana Tue 08-Oct-13 11:03:41

School readers are incredibly badly written (saying this as a former teacher who had to read a lot of the bloody things). All notion of encouraging children to enjoy reading has totally gone out the window it seems - it's all about word repetition and phonics. While they are important teaching children that reading is about trudging through shite about princesses and dragons (I mean talk about old old old hat) that even their teachers and parents can't abide doesn't send a very good message does it. Ironically the one person largely behind all current reading shite dislikes children intensely - shows doesn't it?

IME children love reading stories that relate to their lives. Apart from being totally sexist (agree with you on that one) a story about dragons means nothing much to today's children. It was really striking when I was supply teaching with two year 6 classes - in one we were reading Percy Jackson (fantasy book about characters with abilities based on Greek legend) and a book about a boy constantly in trouble at school (can't remember the name, annoyingly). The class reading PJ just shut down when I took the book out - they used the time to go to sleep. The other class used to literally beg me to read the book and actually asked to stay on during break to hear the next chapter.

Cut the dragons and princesses crap and just write about real children ffs.

DidIMissSomething Tue 08-Oct-13 11:13:43

I agree with you OP - stacks of the reading books are much too gendered BUT as others have said this gives you a fantastic opportunity to talk about perceived gender roles, imbalances and so on with your DD. My concern is for those children that may not get this kind of discussion at home and so just accept these roles.

I remember reading a biff and chip book with a child at school where biff wanted to be a knight instead of a princess (and pulled it off) but the girl reading the book (age 8) thought the idea was ridiculous and that biff should've been happy with her princess role sad

SaggyIsHavingAPinkKitten Tue 08-Oct-13 12:32:29

The kid is 4? I think you need to get a serious grip!

curlew Tue 08-Oct-13 12:35:15

"The kid is 4? I think you need to get a serious grip!"

The kid is learning more than reading. The kid is learning about how girls and boys are viewed in the world, and about herself as a girl. Why not make sure that the images are positive?

DramaQueenofHighCs Tue 08-Oct-13 13:14:10

Oh I'm not wringing my hands about the men but it's all a balance thing: fairytales tend to be set in medieval times (all be it a fantasy version) - men rescued women that's a fact. Yes the princess could have rescued herself and it would've made for a good story, but there are times when you can't rescue yourself. There are more books of 'man rescues woman' but making a fuss doesn't help. If you're that bothered write your own. For that matter, where are the books about gay people, lesbians, transvestites an able bodied person being recued by a disabled person? These groups are still not treated as equally as women are to men. (yes I know it's a 'straw man' argument but I'm just throwing it out there to aid discussion.)

Tbh I grew up with loads and loads of traditional prince rescues princess fairytales and I've come out of it ok - believing in equality. Men and women are different (not just in the obvious ways) and there is nothing wrong with that.

kim147 Tue 08-Oct-13 13:24:42

It's called the Hidden curriculum.

Schools inadvertantly sending out messages about what's "normal" through books, activities, posters on the wall and lessons.

It's so hidden you don't see it unless you look for it. Books represent the typical 2.4 white, straight, married, middle class family.

Maybe that's an extreme example but there are many groups (as dramaqueen points out) who don't see themselves represented at all in schools or who, if they are, are represented in a stereotypical way.

stubbornstains Tue 08-Oct-13 13:26:29

"Princess Smartypants" by Babette Cole is a laugh.

Princess loves her life being mucky and hanging out with her dragons and ponies- the King and Queen invite loads of suitors for her- she manages to chase them all off, and lives happily ever after with her animals smile.

BuffytheAppleBobber Tue 08-Oct-13 13:47:03

All you purveyors of grips, how do you think that all this lazy, negative stereotyping (and I agree completely with dramaqueen that there are also problems with representation of many groups that aren't straight, white men / boys) is really going to be challenged if we shrug and let it pass when it's served up to our children? At what age should they be introduced to the idea that they can think critically about these hidden messages? 12? 16?

scallopsrgreat Tue 08-Oct-13 13:51:10

"you complained about a book because the prince rescued the Princess? Aren't most fairy tales like that?" Precisely. Why should they be mostly like that? Why should we have to put up with these stereotypes still in this day and age?

Mind you I'd like the OP to come back and engage. Perhaps toss a few ideas around as to the types of stories she'd like her child to read. That sort of thing.

Flicktheswitch Tue 08-Oct-13 13:57:20

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

FloraFox Tue 08-Oct-13 18:06:17

YY Buffy and good for you OP. The stories in early readers are among the first messages children learn about the world and their place in it. The Chip and Biff books are much better.

FloraFox Tue 08-Oct-13 18:07:47

It's funny how people say FWR is hostile. This thread looks like a classic AIBU pile-on on the OP.

Habbibu Tue 08-Oct-13 18:10:52

Try Zog by Julia Donaldson as a counterpoint. The thing is, there will be books with messages you don't like - I think it's better to foster critical thinking and reading from the start, rather than censor.

curlew Tue 08-Oct-13 18:11:59

I always find the anti feminists much more hostile than the feminists, to be honest!

nkf Tue 08-Oct-13 18:12:54

Introduce her to Jung"s theories about anima and animus. Only joking. Who did she identify.with? Children's responses can surprise you.

Doobydoo Tue 08-Oct-13 18:20:53

Well...Iwould say read it and explain different sides to it etc.Ds brings home utterly awful books, we have to make sure we read interesting ones! We have a similar issue re religion.He chose not to go to the Harvest Festival...he questions and we try togive a balanced view!
At themoment he believes we are all part of one consciousness.We always talk about what we read...evenif he camehome with a book like your daughter's I would probably discuss it with him.

Doobydoo Tue 08-Oct-13 18:22:04

AAAARGH re Biff and Chip!

Flicktheswitch Tue 08-Oct-13 18:32:52

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

WoTmania Tue 08-Oct-13 18:39:07

Blimey, you're getting a hard time OP. FWIW I think you're doing the right thing - bringing it to the attention of the teacher that you don't want your DD drip fed the notions peddled in these outdated 'fairytale' style stories.
My DD is in reception too and so far we haven't had any princess/female being rescued by male type books, my DSs did get them either. Maybe the school doesn't tend to keep them?

I think it's insidious and needs challenging. No, it's not going to make them think they can stay home and wait for their handsome prince but it is getting them accustomed to the idea that boys do and girls sit, that boys rescue and girls wait to be rescued etc.

kim147 Tue 08-Oct-13 18:47:44

Like I said upthread, the hidden curriculum is such a big thing. It makes LGBT children feel excluded, children with "different families" feel excluded, children from non - white backgrounds, disabled children etc.

They either don't see themselves represented or just get stereotypes. It's so pervasive people don't see it. So it's good to challenge and just to make schools think about the hidden messages their books etc send out.

SatinSandals Tue 08-Oct-13 18:53:16

Books that my mother didn't like made them much more appealing!
I never got anywhere discussing issues in books with my DCs, they just looked at me rather pityingly and said 'it is only a story, mum, you don't need to take it so seriously'.

Idespair Tue 08-Oct-13 18:53:18

OP, I think the teacher is going to think you are a loon.

If you consider reality - take a current real princess in the royal family - it's likely she'd be rescued by a (male) security person if she was attacked. You could have pointed out that real princes also have a security detail.

Generally speaking, men are bigger and stronger than women. Most bodyguards are male. You cannot deny that the average height of a man is larger than the average height of a woman for example.

You could of course have told your dd it was all fiction as there is no such thing as a dragon!

There are any number of ways you could have done the book with your dd and added some explanation to make it more compliant to your (fairly militant IMO) views. Rather than taking up the teacher's time with something you could have solved yourself.

WonderWomanInAOnesie Tue 08-Oct-13 18:55:29

Rosie's Hat is a good story, albeit for slightly younger children I think. Beautiful pictures, and the little girl becomes a firefighter at the end! And there's no "oh she's a GIRL firefighter, well that's SPECIAL!" about it, it's just presented as it is. I like that one.

JoTheHot Tue 08-Oct-13 18:56:30

Throughout history, uncompromising intolerant fanatics, who took themselves and their ideals too seriously, have burnt books they didn't approve of. Just a suggestion.

curlew Tue 08-Oct-13 18:57:09

"OP, I think the teacher is going to think you are a loon."

I don't. I think the teacher will be absolutely delighted to have an aware and interested parent who is concerned about the way children are taught about life. She will have, I hope, have already thought about the images of boys and girls that the children are being given, and will be happy to talk about the reading books she might like to have bought for her class by the PTA.

kim147 Tue 08-Oct-13 18:59:10

You've also got to think about what messages boys get through books.

curlew Tue 08-Oct-13 19:02:58

Yep. That's why I said "children" and "boys and girls" in my post.

BlackberrySeason Tue 08-Oct-13 19:10:34

I've just thought of a good 'woman who is strong and rescues people including men' story - Grace Darling.

BuffytheAppleBobber Tue 08-Oct-13 19:14:08

Millitent views, uncompromising intolerant fanatics. For thinking we'd prefer 5 year old children to have a balanced view of what males and females can be and do. Well, that's us put back in our places, eh.

BuffytheAppleBobber Tue 08-Oct-13 19:18:35

* Militant blush

nkf Tue 08-Oct-13 19:38:02

I love fairy stories. Always have. I started to question them from an early age and later adored Angela Carter's short story The Bloody Chamber for subverting them so skillfully.

I don't accept this idea that literature (even children's literature) is there to present life purely in the form we would like it to be. That seems to me to negate its power.

BuffytheAppleBobber Tue 08-Oct-13 20:00:59

I agree, but I think that rather than children's literature only presenting life in the way we'd like it to be, books like the OP describes present a stereotyped version of life where only white boys are heroes. And sadly, that's the prevalent version; if it weren't I for one would have no issue with it being one of many stories children could read.

WonderWomanInAOnesie Tue 08-Oct-13 20:02:08

Oh yes Blackberry, my son was OBSESSED with the story of Grace Darling when they studied her at school! I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't even recognise the name when he came home waxing lyrical about her so I did some research - what a woman!

Pictish I just recommended The Paper Bag Princess on your other thread grin grin

WhentheRed Tue 08-Oct-13 20:11:39

I see nothing wrong with making a suggestion to the teacher to make available a broad range of books with children in different roles. There are so many good books out there for children that speak to the variety of experiences children may have that there is no need to fall back on books with tired and outdated stereotypes.

CailinDana, I am surprised the children fell asleep during Percy Jackson. My own DCs love that series and are quite nerdy about it.

happyon Tue 08-Oct-13 20:18:36

I've faced this with my DCs and did what others gave suggested by reading it and questioning the message as we read and at the end of the story. My dd and ds both love books and reading and now spot the sort of sexist crap that features in so many books themselves.

When I was young I loved the Famous Five but thought they were incredibly sexist. Now that I read to my own children, I realised that not much has really changed.

We love the princess smartypants books.

nkf Tue 08-Oct-13 20:41:56

There are some fabulous fairy tales from around the world. It's very much not a white boy genre. I think fairy tales have everything. Talking animals, cunning heroes, clever heroes, magic, witches, wizards, spells, language, moral messages - just everything. I actually think they are a rich source of ideas and motifs that feeds children's imaginations at a very profound level.

And, talk about them for Heaven's sake. Who thinks what? Why was the Princess so wet? What would you do in those circumstances? Take a real, deep-learning interest, not just a note to the teacher interest. Write the note if you want. Why not? It can't hurt, but it seems to me to be missing an opportunity.

WhentheRed Tue 08-Oct-13 21:39:42

What opportunity is the OP missing?

Why should we have to sit down and justify negative portrayals rather than simply enjoying positive portrayals?

Btw, why was the Princess so wet? Because I haven't a clue.

WhentheRed Tue 08-Oct-13 21:49:42

^ Take a real, deep-learning interest, not just a note to the teacher interest.^

That's you told OP.

What is that supposed to mean? Having a discussion with a four year old over the harmful effects of misogyny in society?

It's one thing to ask what the children would do when faced with a fire-breathing dragon. It is a different thing to get into a discussion about why the princess was not able to fight a fire-breathing dragon but the prince was able to fight a fire-breathing dragon.

SamanthaHD Wed 09-Oct-13 08:36:18

'It's called the Hidden curriculum.'

I'll say.

My DS was sent home with a picture book (he's 4) and he had to describe the pictures and state which job the people had. The doctor, teacher and vet were women, and the builder and postman were men. I took this up with his teacher too.

meditrina Wed 09-Oct-13 08:50:04

I wouldn't characterise the princess as 'wet'.

I'd go for 'gosh, she was unlucky to be captured' 'what do you think she'd do if it the dragon had caught the prince?'

2tiredtocare Wed 09-Oct-13 09:01:45

We had a book removed from the school reading book rotation, it was called 'mum's diet' and it was about a family who were 'forced' to eat salad as their mum was on a diet.

fossil971 Wed 09-Oct-13 09:05:08

Go for it. It's probably worth a lighthearted comment.

I complained once about one with a health and safety issue - Biff and Chip digging an enormous hole on the beach and burying someone in it I think grin.

kim147 Wed 09-Oct-13 09:38:08

samantha

Well at least the women had jobs grin

Flicktheswitch Wed 09-Oct-13 10:39:10

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

kim147 Wed 09-Oct-13 10:44:04

Did she say she complained?

No.

Flicktheswitch Wed 09-Oct-13 10:46:07

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Kinect Wed 09-Oct-13 10:52:25

What a lot of responses!

To answer some questions.

No I don't read Sleeping Beauty, Snow White or Cinderella at home. DD has had the opportunity to watch Cinderella a few times, but won't stay in the room because of the music. Sofia the First was on TV this weekend and DD asked to watch something else.

DD does have a Rapunzel dressing up dress and regularly watches Tangled & we have the interactive book on the iPad. She is getting a Merida costume for Xmas, she also has the book, but isn't very interested in it. Her life isn't completely devoid of any Princess material.

I am a feminist that believes in equality. Not sure where in my opening post conveys that I don't believe in equality. If there are other books that are brought home that I have an issue with, I will respond in same way. My question was over this book in particular, as it is the first, hopefully only, book I have a problem with.

The book is terribly simplistic, pretty blonde princess in a pink dress etc.

I am certain the books are chosen by the teacher / TA. Tuesday's is library day, when they get to choose two books to bring home for the week. Last week DD chose two reference books about birds, this week the Wishing Wand and Four Franks.

Thanks a lot for all the suggestions of great books. We do already have Zog. I think DD will love the one with the pirates.

We do try and analyse and talk about the books, but DD just isn't there yet. I try and talk to her about the best / favourite / most fun thing in a playground and she won't engage. She is four and a quarter and sees things in a very simplistic way and is usually focussed on one thing at a time. So whilst I appreciate peoples comments to use this as a learning opportunity, there isn't one there at the moment.

That aside, it doesn't stop me being unhappy about the book being standard reading material.

The book is changed over today, so I'll see if there is any reaction from the school.

SinisterSal Wed 09-Oct-13 10:55:51

Flick do you think the messages children pick up along the way have no influence?
Parents can't challenge every little thing kids may see in a day. It's impossible - there are simply too many images to be able to have a conversation about each one. But all those images sink and bleed in and create a kind of cognitive template that we are not even aware of building.

In that context it's not too much to expect the school to help out and counterbalance those damaging messages. They could if they wanted, so why not?

What I tend to do is switch genders in any old story. (Mine are preschoolers so can't read yet so it's easy for me) So if you have a boy / girl team and a dragon say, you'd be surprised how often the Prince 'said kindly/shrieked in fright' and the Princess 'stomped off angrily/said No!' It's an interesting experiment grin And it's so subtle you can't expect children to critique it in all it's nuance and context.

kim147 Wed 09-Oct-13 10:58:28

I saw a message today. It's a "little one" but it still gave off a message.
There's road works near us. Building a Park and Ride. The sign said "My Daddy works here. Drive slowly".

True. Mostly male workers - but I have seen some female engineers there.

Flicktheswitch Wed 09-Oct-13 11:20:58

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

kim147 Wed 09-Oct-13 11:25:07

No one is talking about censorship. But it would be nice to have a wider range of material to show to children.

Some schools are good at that. Some aren't.

BuffytheAppleBobber Wed 09-Oct-13 11:43:20

Isn't it interesting how people are quite happy with censorship when it pertains to age appropriateness?

But when you apply some critical thinking to the construct of 'age appropriateness' that's just a judgement that individuals make, influenced by society, about what's OK for different ages. Example:

A lot of kids cartoons are really violent. Like really quite violent, and they promote the idea that it's OK to use violence to get what you want, so long as you're a "good guy". But that's age appropriate, because society says so. Violence by good guys on bad guys is OK for kids.

No kids cartoons ever have anything approaching a sexual relationship portrayed. That would be outrageous, not appropriate for them until they are at least 15. Yet, sex is how babies are made, a lovely and natural thing to do, no one is hurt, people have fun. Why isn't it OK for kids to see and read about it? Because society says so. Sex isn't OK for kids.

So sorry, the censorship argument doesn't wash with me.

Flicktheswitch Wed 09-Oct-13 11:45:50

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

curlew Wed 09-Oct-13 11:46:34

It's not censorship to say that kids deserve better than crap books.....

Flicktheswitch Wed 09-Oct-13 11:49:56

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

BuffytheAppleBobber Wed 09-Oct-13 11:56:39

Yeah, OK.

scallopsrgreat Wed 09-Oct-13 11:57:26

So why can't other people apply other criteria to the books they give to children Flicktheswitch? Why are you allowed to critically think about what you show your children and we aren't?

Also why do you think children would be deprived if they never saw another prince rescues princess story ever again?

Society is telling girls all the time that men are the protectors, the doers, the rescuers, marriage is the answer, knight in shining armour bullshit etc etc. Why should we accept what society tells us what we read and watch any more than you do?

kim147 Wed 09-Oct-13 12:01:25

People might be interested in this company who specialise in books for children on equality and diversity.

www.letterboxlibrary.com/

curlew Wed 09-Oct-13 12:04:08

"So why can't other people apply other criteria to the books they give to children "

Some can. Some can't. Judging by this thread, some choose not to.

The question is, why give children crap books in the first place? We are careful about the food we put in their bodies- why feed their minds rubbish?

Flicktheswitch Wed 09-Oct-13 12:14:10

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ClayDavis Wed 09-Oct-13 12:18:21

I'm not sure the teacher would laugh at you. I'm normally a bit meh about these things but I think I know the book you mean and it is bad. For some reason the single short3-4 word sentence on each page seems to hammer in the message in a more explicit way than if it were a longer book that you might read to children.

VillaVillekulla Wed 09-Oct-13 12:23:51

I sympathise OP.

I recently complained about a book which I thought was a) reinforcing really negative gender stereotypes and b) not age appropriate (all about rivalry and nasty snide behaviour amongst a group of girls who all fancy their male teacher - all well over the head of 5yo DD).

I really like some of the materials for teachers in this resource called Stereotypes stop you doing stuff. Maybe you could helpfully send a copy to the Head and your DD's teacher wink

scallopsrgreat Wed 09-Oct-13 12:24:26

Well if you don't think they would be deprived why are you bothered about whether they are 'censored' or not?

*Disclaimer: I don't think showing children a wider variety of books and reducing the exposure to harmful gender stereotypes is actually censorship.

scallopsrgreat Wed 09-Oct-13 12:25:00

That was to Flicktheswitch btw

Flicktheswitch Wed 09-Oct-13 12:26:42

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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?

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?

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

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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''

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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 19:40:56

Does it work now?

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.

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.

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.

Its. The horror blush

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.

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>

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