Like a lot of other children, Claire is a big fan of the Thomas the Train setup at most Barnes & Noble stores. Barnes & Noble, who also sells the entire Thomas the Train kit and the add ons, knows what they’re doing. Kids who like Thomas want to play with him every time they’re in the mall, so we’ve made a lot of stops. Claire now recognizes the B&N logo and starts chattering about Thomas.
Once you’re in the store, you might as well buy something, right? I LOVE to buy books for Claire and I, so I‘ve often browsed the kids’ section looking for our next childhood favorite. I was really excited when I first discovered a poetry section. That was until I saw this:
At first glance, I thought, “Cool! Poetry collections for kids. Kids love the rhythm of poems. A collection would be really handy.” But then I started to flip through the pages, and it dawned on me, “Why do young kids need to be gender stereoyped in literature?”
Some of the poems are consistent across both collections, but the categories are slightly different and emphasize gender stereotypes. For example, both books had a section on animals, but the poetry selections in the girls’ collection definitely skewed towards softer, more feminine animals, whereas the boys’ collection had more fierce animal poetry.
Why do young boys and girls need to be gender stereotyped in literature? Kids who are forced to read certain topics or certain books often grow to hate that book, which can lead to hating to read in general. I like the idea of allowing children to read a broad range of topics, books and authors. I like the idea that children can feel free to love whatever they want. If boys want to read Angelina Ballerina, then let them. No, strike that. No one should read Angelina Ballerina.
Now, a few weeks ago I was browsing the bookshelves at Goodwill, when I found this
It’s a great selection of literature to read to your children based on age. Of course, I couldn’t pass it up based on the price tag of less that two bucks. But it’s also a great collection of poems and stories that I’ll enjoy reading myself.
The idea of gender stereotyping in literature was further driven home by Marie Lu in a blog post on Huffington Post titled “Writing a Book for Boys.” At book signings she’s had many well-meaning fans ask if her book would be enjoyed by a 12-year-old boy. Why would this bother her? Well, first of all, she doesn’t know this boy, and, by extension, she doesn’t know what that boy likes. She doesn’t know what type of books that boy likes. If you’re a book lover, and I gather you are if you’re visiting my blog, then you’ll understand how specific our tastes can be. We might enjoy certain cross genre hops from time to time; we might read strictly a specific genre or maybe we just read any genre. Whatever our preference is, most of us are pretty loyal that preference.
Going even further with her point, Lu wrote,
And perhaps the biggest problem with labeling books by gender is all the readers we alienate: by labeling something “for boys,” we imply it is not for girls, and Girl books are not meant for boys.
Let’s let kids read what they want to read, to explore the vast world of books, and to embrace what they find interesting.
What do you think about gender stereotyping in literature?
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