Bedtime stories that challenge gender stereotypes

My favorite bedtime stories are ones with soft rhymes that roll off your tongue like lullabies. One of our family favorites is Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker. 

After a day filled with hard work and tough manual labor, the trucks are ready to turn in and rest before another invigorating day at the construction site. The rhythm is relaxing; the illustrations are beautiful. 

There’s just one problem. All of the trucks are males.

I could go on about all the masculine stereotypes of this reinforces, or stand on my soap box shouting, “gender is not binary.” But my point here is that stereotypes around gender are deeply rooted in our culture and society. 

I advocate for more inclusive children’s literature, but changing society’s, editors’, writers’ and publishers’ mindsets, investments and habits takes time. 

So what can we do while we’re working toward larger, longer-term societal change? 

Read books that challenge gender stereotypes

Add books that challenge gender stereotypes to your bedtime routine and reading repertoire. A few of our family favorites include:

Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

The illustrations are mesmerizing. But it’s message? It will melt your heart. This Stonewall Book Award winner captures the warmth and beauty of true unconditional love. When Julián pretends to a mermaid, his grandmother’s does not yell or tell him to wipe the lipstick from his face. Instead, she moved me to tears of happiness with her acceptance and compassion. 

Not Every Princess by Jeffrey Bone and Lisa Bone

There are no limits on what we can dream, so why should society get to place such rigid gender roles and limitations on us? This book reassures readers that their imagination, their ability to see an opportunity that may not currently exist, is the foundation to making their dreams come true. It allows readers to see themselves beyond stereotypes.

And a helpful bonus: the book includes a special note to parents and caregivers with additional ways you can encourage children to challenge gender roles.

The Prince and The Dressmaker by Jen Wang

This graphic novel is about a prince who likes to wear dresses. At first he feels like he must hide his true self from those he loves, his kingdom and his father. But through the friendship and love of his dressmaker, he is able to see he is strongest when he is free to be who his is, dress and all. 

Pink is for Boys by Robb Pearlman

This book aims to teach young readers that they can love, use and wear any color of the rainbow. It helps me fight the belief that some colors are girly and some are “for boys.” Colors are for everyone. 

Multi-colored books and succulent plants sit on four wood shelves

4 ways to trim your book budget…without sacrificing your to-be-read list

Like many avid readers, I have a problem.

While the piles of to-be-read books on my shelves do spark joy for me, they also spark anxiety over all the money I’ve spent on them. Those four books? That’s $100 I could have put toward a new laptop. And those three over there? That’s half a student loan payment. 

In 2017, I made the financial decision to go cold turkey. I didn’t stop reading, mind you. Only stopped purchasing books for myself. 

It’s one of the best decisions I have ever made. 

I am not the only one trimming my book budget these days. Fellow Rioter, Courtney Rodgers is in the throngs of her no buy year, which eliminates all unnecessary shopping not just books.

I wish Courtney the same luck I found. It’s nearly three years later, I am still going strong. 

So how do I manage to maintain the habit without hurting my budget?

Curate a wish list for gift ideas

I recognized that the root of my anxiety was my personal financial expenditure. If you were to buy me a book and it waited patiently on my shelf for its turn to be read, I felt no remorse. So for holidays and my birthday, I share my reading wish list with those who were looking for gift ideas. 

Curating the list forced me to really prioritize what I wanted to read, and what I was too impatient to wait for at my library. It’s truly a win-win. I get a gift I am excited about (like Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Gaudin) and my loved ones say they’re saved the stress of wondering, “Has Sarah read this yet?” 

Find a book swap buddy (or two!)

There’s no better friend than one who will lend you their books. I often find that some of my favorite reads have been titles lent to me by a loved one. (Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, for example). 

Any time I am at my sister’s or aunt’s house, I browse their shelves and ask to borrow something if it catches my eye. 

If you don’t have a friend who shares your tastes, you can always explore community events. Books swaps, Little Free Libraries and Buy Nothing groups allow neighbors to share easily with one another.

The catch? Give as freely as you get. If you expect to borrow books, please extend the same courtesy and open your library in return.

Earn credit to the Google book store

Did you know you can earn rewards by participating in Google surveys? Simply download the app and surveys will be sent to you periodically. They are usually less than four questions each. You don’t earn credit for every survey you complete, but in the three years I’ve been participating,  I have earned more than $120.  I apply my credit to my Google Books app to support and buy the latest work of my favorite authors. (My latest purchase was Pride by Ibi Zoboi.) 

Get familiar with Libby

Libby by Overdrive, allows me to browse, borrow and read (or listen to) items from my local library all within one single app. The app also curates some great reading lists that make it easy to explore diverse topics and titles I might never have heard of before.