5 Children’s Books That Break Gender Stereotypes
Wish your child is not influenced by gender stereotypes? Start with these books!
By Jasmine Kaur
Children are assigned gender roles from the minute they are born. Boy babies are wrapped in blue blankets and girls in pink. As they grow up, they are also told how to behave and what choices to make, based on their gender. Some of the common stereotypes are that girls are better in fine arts, and boys are better in science and maths. Also, girls are considered to be more expressive and emotional while boys are told to ‘man up’ from an early age.
While you may not reinforce these gender stereotypes as a parent, there are people all around you and your child who would. This is why it’s important to teach him that gender stereotypes are not the norm and encourage him to break them. One way to do so is to expose him to diverse literature and movies that question gender and its roles. We give you five books that break gender stereotypes and will help your child become more gender sensitive.
1. ‘The Boy & the Bindi’
Author: Vivek Shraya
Illustrator: Rajni Perera
Bindi is a common adornment worn by Hindu women on their foreheads in the Indian subcontinent. It was traditionally red, but women now wear it in all colours. In this book a young boy is fascinated by the bindi on his mother’s forehead. His mother tells him about the cultural significance of bindi. The boy even asks his mother for a bindi and his mother provides him with one. This book will teach your child that gender doesn’t have to determine our choices.The beautiful illustrations that merge seamlessly with the text, make this book a delight to read.
2. ‘The Magic Rolling Pin’
Author: Chef Vikas Khanna
Girls are generally the ones expected to learn how to cook, while boys are sometimes teased if they take interest in cooking or baking. In this book, popular chef Vikas Khanna explores his interest in cooking, which formed at a young age through a small boy called ‘Jugnu’. The book, with its colourful images, immerses the readers in Jugnu’s world. It creates a fantastical world for the reader. We see Jugnu cook and take immense pleasure in it. He even earns a reputation for making perfectly round rotis!
3. ‘Sparkle Boy’
Author: Lesléa Newman
Illustrator: Maria Mola
Boys and men are discouraged from wearing things that are sparkly, because such things are considered feminine. This book is about a boy called Casey, who likes sparkly things, like his sister’s shimmering skirt or his grandmother’s glittering jewellery. His parents and relatives are supportive of his interest and let him wear the sparkling things that bring him joy.
However, Casey’s sister, Jessie, doesn’t think that boys should wear sparkling things. She continuously tells him not to wear them and even shames him at times. By the end of the book, however, Jessie comes to see the importance of letting people be who they are. And, she accepts her little brother’s interest in things that sparkle.
4. ‘Girls To The Rescue’
Author: Sowmya Rajendran
Illustrator: Ashok Rajagopalan
Fairy tales traditionally depict damsels in distress who are rescued by knights in shining armour. Such stories often promote the idea that women need to be rescued by men and that they are not capable of saving themselves.
This book, however, turns this narrative on its head, where the girls decide to rescue themselves. We meet Snow White and Cinderella amongst other fairy tale heroines and see them escape on their own. This story shows that girls can come to their own rescue and save the day too!
5. ‘Hope Is A Girl Selling Fruit’
Author & Illustrator: Amrita Das
Editor: Gita Wolf
Translator: Suseela Varadaraja
The book uses Madhubani art, practised in the Mithalia region of India and Nepal, to tell the story. This is a story of a young girl who travels to Chennai from her village. During her journey, she meets another girl who is disabled and hails from a poor family. This encounter also makes it an emotional journey for her making her reflect on her thoughts and feelings. She is also able to view a woman's life as one of making her own choices, speaking for herself, being independent and sustaining herself. In fact, when the other girl displays great resilience in selling fruit despite her poverty and disability, she sees hope in that for women and declares, “I want to be brave, and different.” This is reflected in the title – 'Hope is a girl selling fruit'.
These are some of the books that can help your child have a different, and more gender sensitive view of the world. Remember, that it is also important for you to be gender sensitive and model the correct behaviour for him to follow.
About the author:
Written by Jasmine Kaur on 12 January 2019.
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