Research Says Kids’ Books Reinforce Gender Stereotypes. Here’s What To Do About It.

Reading aloud is one of the best things parents can do to their young children – teach them the world and themselves, and even change the structural makeup of their brains.

But a new study serves as a stark reminder that the “what” and “how” matter. When researchers analyzed 247 books for children up to five years old (including a mix of bestsellers and titles from “Best of All Time” lists), they found evidence of many gender stereotypes—for example, that girls are better at language and boys are better. In mathematics.

Many of the stories also use gendered language and concepts. When girls are the protagonists, books are more likely to use words that express affection or contain words such as “explain” and “listen.” When boys are the protagonists, plots and language tend to focus more on work, transportation, and tools.

“There is often some kind of learning cycle about gender stereotypes, where children learn stereotypes at an early age and then perpetuate them as they get older,” study researcher Molly Lewis, a private faculty in Dietrich’s Departments of Social Sciences, Decision Sciences, and Psychology The College of Humanities and Social Sciences said in a press release. “These books may be a vehicle for communicating information about sex. We may need to pay some attention to what these messages might be and whether they are messages you even want to bring to children.”

Lewis stressed that she and her fellow researchers are not looking to destroy the families’ relationships with, say, Amelia Bedelia or Curious George. but there be Simple steps caregivers can take to combat language and gender stereotypes in picture books. Here are a few.

Take a critical look at your child’s library

One of the best ways that parents can provide a counterweight to gender stereotypes in children’s books – and this really applies to stereotypes of all kinds – is to ensure that children have access to gender-inclusive books at home and in the library. The Internet is full of lists of representative children’s book titles, including many that focus on LGBTQ. There are book and collection finders that can help, too.

In some books that include sex, the character’s gender or gender is central to the plot; At other times it is not. Those so-called “any kid” books can also be powerful. The goal is to have a mix.

“He. She Do It does matter what books you read, Jennifer Goldstein, head of books at A Kids Book About, told HuffPost. “Seeing a strong representation of someone like you in a proactive and positive role is a building block for your future self.”

Also, make sure that you don’t just read books with male heroes for boys and books with female heroines for girls. The researchers behind the new study found that children are often subject to stereotypes about their gender, suggesting that parents don’t necessarily confuse them.

“It is important for all of us to see all kinds of people doing everyday and important things. This means that all genders are visible, including transgender, transgender and nonbinary people.” “It reflects the reality of humanity as a whole. This is a lifelong skill, and it gives all people the idea that we can all do everything.”

Use inaccurate books as tools

It is very good if your child likes a book or two who is not completely open to gender roles. But you don’t have to throw away books like this. Instead, use it. Books can be a great way to engage with big and thorny topics, especially for young children whose brains are developing millions of neural connections per second.

“Every children’s book is a fun moment and an education moment,” said Diane Earnsaft, director of the Center for Children and Adolescent Mental Health at UCSF Benioff Hospital for Children in San Francisco.

They are not very young. The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that children learn a lot about what they think gender role behaviors are, and what they “should” be, as early as — like, at age four.

So, simply put, notice and point out the basic stereotypes.

“You could say something like, ‘I’m looking at this and I’m wondering why does Sylvia always have to wear pink? And why doesn’t Jeremy wear pink? “You can just say, ‘I wonder why that should be? Why shouldn’t that be a color for people?'”

Goldstein offered some other questions that can help start discussions:

  • “Do you think it is important what your gender is to be a doctor? Chef? Driving race cars? Sewing clothes? Why?”

  • “Does your gender in school help you learn the alphabet? Count to 10? Use a pencil? Read a book? Why?”

  • “In our house, who does what? Why?”

break out in Post-its

Another option: Turn it into a business and use Post-its so you and your child can basically rewrite the book together. If there’s something you’d like to point out or push back on—like the same simple example of all the female characters in the book wearing pink, all the boys wearing blue—glue the Post-it in the book. You might write a thought bubble where a male character says, “Gee, I’d like to wear pink sometime.”

“It’s a creative activity with your child, so you don’t have to put these books away. You can use them and modify them,” Earnsaft said. Also, it’s fun for children to play the role of the author. It gives them a sense of being able to act, Earnsaft noted.

Of course, not every book has to be a teaching moment. None of the experts interviewed for this article argued that this was the case. Sometimes you and your child or preschooler will want to cuddle together before bed and lose yourselves in a story without worrying about the bigger message. Don’t force him.

“You shouldn’t make a child read what you believe in,” Earnsavet said. And you shouldn’t lecture them or argue with them if they’ve had moments where they’ve emphasized, yes, pink for sure is being girl color. They are young and educated. Parents are still learning, too.

“It’s the start of a conversation,” Earnzaft said.

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