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.