Children's Books without Toxic Stereotypes
In my view, there are many more "toxic" things in our world then chemicals. Sure, there are a whole host of toxic chemicals that are in our products, our air, and in our food that we need to learn more about, and protect our families from. But that is not what I am posting about today.
I recently read Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters from Marketers' Schemes, by Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown. This book points out what you have to be blind to have missed-- how marketers decide what your children should be interested in, do and buy based on their gender. Just take a look at any Pottery Barn catalog or a sale flier from Toys R Us. The girls are encouraged to shop, observe, care lots about houses, food, and taking care of babies. Boys are encouraged to explore, build, construct, and play sports.
The Packaging of Girlhood is a great, informative and disturbing read. It shares specific information about marketing to different age groups: toddlers, little girls, pre-adolescents and teenagers, with sections focusing on differing types of media. It is packed with advice for how you can moderate this uber-marketing with conversations, activities, and books and movies with no gender stereotyping.
I can hear you already. "But there ARE differences in the sexes!" you say. I totally agree. That doesn't mean we should limit our kid's options before they've even learned about them or the world in which they live.
That's my short statement about why I care if my kid is reading Pooh (ever notice all the characters are male except the matronly Kanga?), Olivia, or the Lorax.
Here is my short list of great picture books that feature strong female characters that don't fit into regular gender roles. I know my girls will be exposed to enough traditional gender roles by just living.
Some of these books are listed in the Packaging of Girlhood, and some have been added by friends and my own reading. You can find these books online or you can take the list to your library or local independent bookstore.
Motherless Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
Stelluna by Janell Cannon
Trouble with Trolls by Jan Brett (her illustrations are beautiful!) Most Jan Brett books feature strong female characters..except most of the animals are male (?).
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert N. Munch
Angela's Airplane (by the same)
Miss Rumphis by Barbara Cooney
Seven Brave Women by Betsy Hearne
The Family Book, by Todd Parr
The Peace Book, by Todd Parr
It's Okay to be Different, by Todd Parr
I'm raising two girls, mind you, so I mostly focus on female gender roles, but PLEASE, if you know of a great children's book about boys that is free of stereotyping, post it here! And of course, there are more stereotypes to bust open. Post a comment to share your favorite children's books that break traditional stereotypes (gender, race, age, sexual orientation, family structure, whatever!).
(first published on Non-Toxic Kids)