Gender stereotypes are very common in children's literature. Classic children's books and even more contemporary stories frequently portray boys and girls in terms of specific socially defined gender norms. In recent years, some children's authors have made an effort to develop characters who exist as individuals, often in explicit defiance of stereotypes. This sort of literature can be helpful to students talking about any sort of difference, as well as to children who are beginning to understand the depth and harmful nature of gender stereotypes.
This lesson allows children to look at one or more picture books that counter gender stereotypes. After discussion of the book, children will engage in a creative writing activity geared to fostering individual identity and resisting social definitions of what and how a boy or girl “should” be.
There are a number of resources looking at gender stereotypes in children's literature. The phenomenon is discussed in "New Study Finds Gender Bias in Children's Books" and "Study Finds Huge Gender Imbalance in Children's Literature."
Books that directly address or combat gender stereotypes are discussed in the National Association for Education of Young Children's "Children's Books That Break Gender Stereotypes" and at the Critical Multicultural Pavilion, "Race, Gender and Disability in Children's Literature."
The story behind "My Princess Boy," as well as links to sites and organizations supporting flexibility and open mindedness in emergent gender identities, can be found here.