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Gender Labels in Children's Books

(11 Posts)
LornaVS Wed 24-Jun-15 12:13:50

I'm really curious to find out more about how parents choose books for young children - I'm doing a research project on books for young boys/girls and am very keen to hear views from parents!

My research is inspired by the Let Books be Books campaign, so I'd love to know if you have/know children who prefer 'girly' books or if you would feel that there is pressure from bookshops/publishers to buy a certain 'type' of book for your child.

I've made a blog to gather thoughts - please have a look or comment below! My blog is: Thank you smile

LassUnparalleled Thu 25-Jun-15 00:38:54

I only have the 1 son but it never occurred to me to choose books for him because he was a boy.

The books we both enjoyed the most when he was little were Martin Waddell's Little Bear series, Farmer Duck,Owl Babies. He also loved a version of The Snow Queen illustrated by P.J Lynch which is stunningly beautiful and for that matter East of the Sun and West of the Moon also illustrated by P Lynch. That's just a random selection of books he liked before he could read.

drinkscabinet Mon 29-Jun-15 00:10:20

When I was choosing books for my DC (2DDs and a DS) when they were little then I chose books that I liked the look of. Inevitably that meant we have ended up with more picture books about males than books about females. As the DDs get older and choose their own books they have had the inevitable rainbow fairy stage but frankly at least those are books with female characters. I read more quality fiction to them but do now deliberately choose books with female characters, in the same way we only buy DVDs that pass the Bechdel test. I think it's important for girls to be exposed to stories where females are major characters because so much of the time they don't.

Having said all that I tend to buy my nephews books that have female characters as well, I scored a great hit at Christmas with the Little House Books so will continue to look for books that appeal to both sexes that just happen to have decent female characters.

rosy71 Mon 29-Jun-15 07:32:26

I have 2 boys. I did choose books about tractors & fire engines but also books like Owl Babies, We're Going on a Bear Hunt etc. Since they've been older, I've read them books I remember from a child that I enjoyed, so Enid Blyton & Roald Dahl. They both like those. They both like Tom Gates. Ds1 likes the Wimpy Kid books & has read some David Walliams & Michael Morpurgo.

rosy71 Mon 29-Jun-15 07:33:39

Oh yes, I did also read ds1 The Owl Who was Afraid of the Dark & The Worst Witch books when he was about 7 & he enjoyed both of those.

HelloWheels Mon 29-Jun-15 07:54:32

Even "dear zoo" is sexist isn't it? All the animals are males!

BathshebaDarkstone Mon 29-Jun-15 07:57:22

DC choose their own books, they do tend to go for gender stereotypes.

SweetAndFullOfGrace Mon 29-Jun-15 08:09:53

It's difficult to get good children's books with a female protagonist. Many of the lovely classic ones tend to use "he" (even when it's unnecessary because they're animals, eg dear zoo as Hello points out). And some of the ones with a female lead are deliberately preachy in an annoying way (in lists of books for girls there seems to be a big overlap between "it's ok to be yourself" eg boys as ballerinas, and books aimed at parents looking for books with female characters).

I try to make sure DD's library has a balance of books with both male and female characters, which in practice means I buy almost solely books with female leads as everyone else buys her books that tend to have boys in the lead role.

I'm also trying to get in early to counteract the pink princess factor, so we have books like princess pigsty and the paper bag princess. Possibly futile but worth a try!

BarbarianMum Sat 04-Jul-15 09:22:17

"It's hard to get good children's books with a female protagonist. "

Interestingly, now ds1 is older at least 50% (actually I think its more) of his chosen books have female lead characters - Valkyrie Kane in the Skullduggery Pleasant series, Laura Marlin in the Laura Marlin mysteries, Lyra in the Dark Materials trilogy. Obviously these have all been written in the last 20 years.

rosy71 Sat 04-Jul-15 17:03:45

Some of the Roald Dahl books have female "leads" e.g. Matilda, the BFG, the Magic Finger, as do David Walliams e.g. Mr Stink. I know they're for older children. I agree it's harder with younger children's books. Charlie & Lola and Maisy the Mouse spring to mind.

SweetAndFullOfGrace Sat 04-Jul-15 18:15:56

That's true. I'm looking forward to DD being able to read proper books, I know there are increasingly lots of good female leads in books for older children. The toddler book options are a bit dire though.

And as I'm discovering, traditional tales are even worse. There is a disturbing amount of kissing done by princes while the helpless female character is asleep confused

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