32 Picture Books that Defy Gender Stereotypes
This collection of picture books shatter gender stereotypes. They challenge gender norms and present characters who don’t fit into “traditional” gender roles but are true to themselves.
Children and Gender Stereotypes
“People share a common nature but are trained in gender roles.” ~ Lillie Devereux Blake
Exposure to diverse picture books is for many children the first time they discover lives different from their own. They are also important for children to read about characters they can relate to. Reading about characters with similar lives and personalities supports self-esteem and confidence.
Research shows that gender stereotyping affects children negatively, particularly in terms of career aspiration and academic achievement. Children can suffer anxiety if they feel different or don’t fit in. Having a positive sense of identity helps children feel confident about themselves and be more open-minded when meeting other people.
Telling our students there are girls’ things or boys’ things, reinforces gender bias and what is right or wrong for them to do or like. Who are we to tell a girl she can’t play with a truck or dress like a warrior, and that a boy can’t like dolls or sparkles?
Children establish gender stereotypes early, so we should counteract this with books that promote gender equality and the idea our students can do and aim for anything they want.
Picture Books about Gender Roles and Stereotypes
When I was a teacher-librarian, I found boys wanted “boy’s books”. The girls seemed a lot more open to reading whatever interested them. For many primary age boys, reading a ‘girly’ book is embarrassing. Where do they get this idea so young? I have always told my students there aren’t boys’ and girls’ books, just books that you will like or not like, but you have to read them to find out.
Reading diverse books, like the one below, is a wonderful way to challenge gender stereotypes. They present characters who don’t conform to “normal” gender stereotypes.
On the list, you will find books that:
- challenge male and female stereotypes, as well as the idea that there are girls’ and boys’ things.
- promote positive role models who like what they like and don’t worry about what others think.
- portray characters who are working to establish their identity.
- focus on characters getting on with their lives while challenging gender bias.
- challenge what feminine or masculine characteristics are.
- asks questions about what is ‘normal’ about being a boy or a girl and how there is no normal.
Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
Angus all Aglow by Heather Smith
The Boy Who Grew Flowers by Jen Wojtowicz
Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle
Elena's Serenade by Campbell Geeslin
Emmeline Pankhurst by Lisbeth Kaiser
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice by Nikki Grimes
Little Kunoichi, The Ninja Girl by Sanae Ishida
Little Red by Bethan Woollvin
Mary Wears What She Wants by Keith Negley
Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully
Ocean Speaks: How Marie Tharp Revealed the Ocean's Biggest Secret by Jess Keating
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
Piggybook by Anthony Browne
Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole
She Made a Monster: How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lynn Fulton
Wild by Emily Hughes
Discussion Questions about Gender Stereotypes
- What does the word ‘stereotypes’ mean?
- What is gender stereotyping?
- What is gender identity?
- Where do you think gender stereotypes come from?
- Why do you think there gender stereotyping exists?
- Have you come across gender stereotypes in books you have read? What examples can you think of?
- What female gender stereotypes can you think of?
- What male gender stereotypes can you think of?
- How do you think gender stereotypes in books affect the reader?
- Do you think male and female characters are treated in the same way? For example, could [character] have been male or female? Explain your answer?
Gender Stereotypes Videos
Teaching your students about gender stereotypes is an in-depth topic. Learning for Justice has a couple of teaching units of this topic:
The National Union of Education has a series of resources called Breaking the Mould. Particularly relevant to this book list is “Stereotypes stop you doing stuff”. Inside you will find an overview of the impact of gender stereotypes in several primary schools.
Do you have any favourite books about gender roles and stereotypes you use in the classroom? Let me know in the comments.
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