Children’s books about gender nonconformity

(I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on the link and make a purchase on Amazon, I receive a percentage of the sale. The opinions contained within are my own and I was not paid. I did receive a copy via Netgalley for a review)

Even though I am not that old, I still find times that I hold old school beliefs. My own children, their friends, and the children I work with have been incredible examples of acceptance of the complex and diverse world around us. And because of this, I have found my eyes opened to ways I unintentionally contribute to stereotypes and biases. I am still growing and learning, and grateful for the journey I am on. Books like Jacob’s room to choose by Sarah and Ian Hoffman, lead me even deeper into this journey.

I have found my eyes opened to ways I unintentionally contribute to stereotypes and biases.

Jacob’s room to choose tackles the ongoing cultural discussion of gendered bathrooms. The authors explore how gendered differences are established in cultural and how that impacts our young children. Even though the concept might be advanced for very young readers, the authors handle the material in an age appropriate and sensitive way.

I am glad to see more books about gender acceptance entering mainstream children’s literature, although I would like to see less message driven books surrounding this topic and more books about kids being kids no matter how or if they identify with any certain gender or stereotype.

The vulnerability of the authors’ own struggles will bring insights and encouragement to other parents facing the same issues as well as classroom teachers and communities. A worthwhile book to read and would be a great addition to a parenting section at the library or parent resources in a school setting.

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Other Books to Read:

Julien is a mermaid by Jessica Love. Julien has always wanted to dress up like the three beautiful women he meets on the train. With the support of his abuela, Julien sparkles inside and out when he is free to be himself.

My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis. Dyson loves the color pink and the more glitter the better. A great book for parents and kids learning to live together with differences.

Pink is for Boys by Robb Pearlman. A easy to read book about how there is no girl colors or boy colors. A freeing book for children and parents alike.

Red: A crayon’s story By Michael Hall. A story about a crayon who is mistakenly labeled and the hurt suffered when friends, family and strangers try to force him to be who they see on the outside. The crayon finds help from friends who encourage him to be true to who he is on the inside.

Books for Grown-ups:

Becoming Nicole: the extraordinary transformation of an ordinary family. By Amy Ellis Nutt. How a family pulls together to support their transitioning child and the ups and downs that come with the changes.

The Transgender Teen: a handbook for parents and professionals supporting transgender and nonbinary teens. Stephanie A. Brill and Lisa Kenney. A resource for parents, teachers and others who support a teen transitioning or living a nonbinary life.

Beyond Magenta: transgender teens speak out. Susan Kuklin. What is life like for a transgender teen? Read 6 stories of triumphs, struggles, and more.

 

What books have you found most helpful in initiating discussions with your family about gender stereotypes and labels?

 

Happy Reading

Book Review: Pink is for Boys by Robb Pearlman

A few summers ago, my family and I vacationed at Disney World. My youngest was six and everywhere she went, the cast members called her princess. She readily told them she was not a princess but a JEDI!

Socialization and gender labeling happens before birth. Gender reveal parties, pink or blue announcements, and nurseries decorated in either pinks and purples or blues and reds. Our children are not born believing only girls wear dresses and only boys play football, those are stereotypes that are taught.

I know talking about gender identity is a scary topic for parents. You don’t want to invalidate or confuse your child. This book can be enjoyed with or without the deeper discussions. You know your child best and what I have discovered is to follow their lead.

Picture Book Stereotyping

Picture books often get involved in the gender stereotyping. Books for girls on the covers are often pastel, soft and gentle. “Boy books” are often about dirt, construction, and transportation. There is not only a diversity issue in the children’s book world, there is also a problem with the gender roles established in the very books that are building children’s understanding of the world.

My favorite book when I was a child was Nurse Nancy. Although I am sure I liked it because it came with its own bandaids. In the story Nurse Nancy wasn’t allowed to play with the boys until one of them got hurt and she was needed to care for them. The companion book Doctor Dan was a book about a boy pretending to be a doctor. If I hadn’t had different parents, I would have believed that only girls became nurses and boys became doctors, because even though it is 2018, it is a storyline still often told in the books for our youngest readers and listeners. It wasn’t until my first daughter was born and I found the beloved Nurse Nancy book at the bookstore I realized how inappropriate the message of the book was!

I am happy to see more and more books are not gender specific, the authors and publishers could go a lot further in breaking down the dangerous gender roles that plague the advancement of girls (and boys) in our country.

All of that being said, Pink is for Boys by Robb Pearlman and Illustrated by Eda Kaban is a great book for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. It has simple text for listeners as young as 6 months, but preschoolers will also enjoy diving deeper into the conversations in the illustrations.

In this book your children will learn about colors and they will see diversity in the children on the page. All listeners will find a familiar face on the page. The vocabulary in the text is strong but also by using the pictures on the page, parents will have a lot of opportunities to describe the pictures and find new words!

Examples

  • On the first page spread is a dance party. In it point out the objects the child might not know, or use another word to describe a familiar object. Use baby grand piano instead of piano. Talk about the bunting in the window and mention when and why we use it. Name different shapes you see in the balloons, clouds, bunting, walls, piano keys and more. One page of illustrations will provide plenty of enriching conversation!
  • This will also be a great opportunity for preschoolers especially, to ask questions that go beyond what the words and illustrations show. For example the second page spread is about blue is for girls and boys. It shows a girl and boy in baseball uniforms. You can discuss what sports there are and name some that are unusual like polo, la crosse or running. To gauge your child’s understanding of the book, you can ask who plays basketball or baseball or soccer. This book provides an opportunity to show our children that boys can do whatever girls do and girls can do whatever boys do!
  • Sometimes the simplest books pack the most educational punch for our kids. This book will keep the child engage, help them learn about colors and new words as well as help break the stereotype that boys and girls can like the same colors, clothes and games.

TALK: Million Dollar Words

Below are words that appear in the text or illustrations. Find ways to use these words in conversation. Another way to familiarize the child with the words are to point them out after reading the book, or stop and point out while reading.

  • Valance
  • Bunting
  • Catcher
  • Column
  • Chandelier
  • Track
  • Dribbling
  • Fragile
  • Cuddle

TALK: Build Reading Comprehension. Ask Questions!

Don’t only read the book. Ask questions! It helps build reading comprehension and it also builds enjoyment. Don’t know where to start? Begin with these and add your own. Even have your child ask YOU questions.

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PLAY: Low Cost Enrichment

Read the book and then try some of the activities in the youtube video. Lots of great ways to help kids learn sorting, ordering and more. All which help increase reading comprehension. Included in this video are ideas on strengthening the pincer grip which helps children learn to write.

Sing

Try this song from Teaching Mama. It will help your child identify colors and label clothing and follow directions.

Retrieved from Teaching mama on September 3, 2018 at https://teachingmama.org/10-preschool-songs-colors/

PLAY

Learning isn’t only about reading and information. Our children need to play more than any other activity at this stage in life. Some ideas for independent play:

  • Create a dress up box. Include items from mens closets as well as women’s. Thrift stores are a great place to find gently used items.
  • If you have a back or front yard, take off your child’s shoes and socks and let them run around in bare feet. There is a lot of research that shows the link between no shoe childhoods and brain development. Read an article in the Washington Post here
  • Find a park or a safe space and let your child pedal on a bike, tricycle, or any other object that moves. They can pretend they are on the race track like the children in the book. Get a book out for yourself and watch the play.

What to read next

Julian plays dress up after spotting three beautiful women on the subway ride home. He makes a mess and is worried how his Abuela will feel when she sees what he’s done.

The colors fight and a big mess ensues. See how they solve their problems.

A blue crayon is labeled red and must find a way to follow its heart no matter what obstacles the crayon faces.

Annie is forced to wear a dress to a wedding and Annie hates dresses. See how she overcomes this dilemma.

Share in the comments different ways you find to include the Million Dollar words in your conversations.

Happy Reading