A campaign for publishers to stop producing books specifically ‘for girls’ or ‘for boys’ has had instant success after receiving a positive response from one of the publishe
A campaign for publishers to stop producing books specifically ‘for girls’ or ‘for boys’ has had instant success after receiving a positive response from one of the publishers involved.
Let Books Be Books is a campaign that was recently launched by the group of parents behind the successful Let Toys Be Toys petition that has persuaded retailers including Toys R Us to market toys more inclusively.
It was launched in time for both International Women’s Day and World Book Day, and calls for an end to marketing books for a specific gender to try to break down gender divides in children’s publishing. The campaigners say that currently a limited message is being sent out to children about what is appropriate for boys and for girls.
The petition, to “stop labelling books, in the title or on the packaging, as for girls or for boys,” has received over 3000 signatures on change.org so far, as well as a lot of supportive comments. It is addressed to publishers including Usborne and Buster Books, and states that “children’s publishing should always aim to open up new worlds for children.”
The petition asks publishers to “stop labelling books this way and let children decide for themselves which kinds of stories and activity books they find interesting.” Although the initial target for the campaign is publishers, they also plan to try and change the way that booksellers and retailers market books to children.
‘What they find interesting’
The problematic books are rife with gender stereotypes. Girl’s books are typically in bright colours like pink and purple with fussy and detailed fonts, and feature images such as hearts, stars, flowers, and butterflies. On the other hand, boy’s books are thought to be in darker colours such as blue and green with more straightforward fonts and images including cars, robots, and space.
The publisher Usborne announced their support of the campaign, saying that they had a plan to “discontinue the publication of titles such as these that was decided some time ago.” They also said that they have “no plans to produce any titles labelled ‘for girls’ or ‘for boys’ in the future.”
Tricia Lowther from the campaign praised Usborne’s decision and said she hoped that other publishers would follow suit. She said: “it’s great that Usborne have agreed to take this step to let children decide for themselves what kinds of stories and activity books they find interesting.”
She also commented on the campaign in general, saying: “Of course there’s nothing wrong with boys liking pirates and girls liking princesses, but what about boys who like princesses and girls who like pirates?” She continued, saying that “it’s closing down avenues for them finding out who they want to be.”
An ‘uphill battle’ ahead
The celebrated author and former children’s laureate Anne Fine has also expressed her support for the campaign, saying that it is “exasperating” that “these false and stupid assumptions about what each gender ‘wants’ are back in force, narrowing the horizons and possibilities for children of both sexes.”
However, the publisher Buster Books is proving harder to influence, as their owner Michael O’Mara has said that despite the petition things are unlikely to change. He argued: “When you have a colouring book that is specifically for a boy or a girl it sells three times as many copies as one without the sexual categorisation.”
Although he pointed out that he does understand the group’s concerns, he said that they would still have an “uphill battle” to alter the situation because the problem is “so entrenched.”
Regarding Buster Books, he said: “We are going to continue with these categorisations where we think they are necessary.”
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Image: brewbooks / Flickr