Why we need to ensure that books remain books

Earlier this month, the campaign group behind ‘Let Books Be Books’ created a petition to stop the creation and selling of books specifically targeted at boys or girls.

Earlier this month, the campaign group behind ‘Let Books Be Books’ created a petition to stop the creation and selling of books specifically targeted at boys or girls. It’s a brilliant campaign and I think it needs lots more recognition if gender stereotypes are going to be broken down fully.

Surely children should be allowed to grow and develop however they wish, having freedom of choice in what they read?

Buster Books publishedThe Beautiful Girls’ Colouring Book featuring typical ‘girl’ images of princesses, butterflies and cupcakes. This publisher also brought outThe Brilliant Boys’ Colouring Book featuring equally typical ‘boy’ images of rockets and footballs.

‘Closing down avenues’

It seems as though these books encourage children to think that they are not ‘allowed’ to like a book aimed at the opposite sex. This can end up a real danger for children who don’t necessarily conform to common stereotypes as they can become vulnerable to bullying and this is wholly unfair.

Campaigner Tricia Lowther says: “Of course there’s nothing wrong with boys liking pirates or girls liking princesses, but what about boys who like princesses and girls who like pirates? How will they feel? It’s closing down avenues for them finding out who they want to be.”

I fully agree and think that these gender aimed books lessen children’s ability to express their individuality and to be honest, growing up can be a difficult enough time as it is without these restrictions being put in place.

The campaign has been a great success with over 3000 signatures on the petition so far and spokespeople at Usborne, publishers of Girls’ Activity Book and Boys’ Activity Book, have already announced that a plan to “discontinue publication of titles such as these was decided some time ago.”

Books must be ‘open to everyone’

Parragon Books have also said that they will not be creating anymore labelled books either after their publishing of girls and boys sticker books. It’s great that the campaign has made such a positive impact already, but to me it’s interesting how willing these big name publishers were to cease production so quickly and easily.

Perhaps they already knew about gender stereotyping in books but went ahead with publication due to a different incentive?

Publishers have become greedy as the incentive is money, of course. Buster Books owner Michael O’Mara says it is a “fact of life” that people bear gender in mind when searching for gifts. On Amazon sales are much higher on books with the words “for boys” or “for girls” in the title as this is what buyers type into the search bar when stuck for ideas. Are the public equally guilty then?

Children deserve to choose whichever type of book they like and retailers should be bearing in mind that actions speak louder than words. While we tell young children that they should be proud of who they are and can have the freedom to embrace whatever interests they have, gender stereotyping books are completely counteracting this belief.

As ‘Let Books Be Books’ so greatly put it: “A good book should be open to anyone.”

What do you think of the campaign? Will it be successful? Have your say in the comments section below.

Image: Ian Wilson / Flickr