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.
Standard 1. Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process.
Standard 5. Uses the general skills and strategies of the reading process.
Standard 6. Uses skills and strategies to read a variety of literary texts.
Standard 8. Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes.
Working With Others
Standard 1. Contributes to the overall effort of a group.
Standard 3. Works well with diverse individuals and in diverse situations.
Standard 4. Displays effective interpersonal communication skills.
Standard 2. Performs self-appraisal.
Standard 5. Maintains a healthy self concept.
Common Core State Standards, English Language Arts
Speaking and Listening
Comprehension and Collaboration
Standard 1. Engages effectively in a range of collaborative discussions
Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas
Standard 4. Reports on a topic or text, tells a story, or recounts an experience
Standard 6. Speaks in complete sentences when appropriate to task and situation in order to provide requested detail or clarification
Text Types and Purposes
Standard 3. Writes narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events
Production and Distribution of Writing
Standard 4. Produces writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task and purpose
Standard 5. Develops and strengthens writing as needed by planning, revising and editing