This World Book Day, alongside the Society of Authors we’re asking authors, illustrators and readers to share examples of books they’ve loved and enjoyed that maybe didn’t fit other people’s (or their own!) expectations of what boys and girls, men and women, are ‘supposed’ to like.
Share your own examples – email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet us @lettoysbetoys #anybookanybody
This time last year on World Book Day 2015 we launched our Let Books Be Books campaign asking publishers to take the ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ labels off books and allow children to choose their interests for themselves.
Since then, eight publishers have committed to publishing no more gender-labelled titles, and perhaps more importantly, we’ve contributed to a growing discussion in the publishing industry about the ways books can be packaged and marketed to appeal to boys or girls.
We believe that gender simply isn’t a good guide to a child’s interests; choosing books according to tired stereotypes about girls and boys limits children’s choices, reinforces negative ideas about boys which are particularly harmful, and means children missing out on stories and characters they may love.
The Society of Authors has been asking some of its members:
What writers say
“I loved A Book of Princesses (which I recently reread, having discovered a copy in a second-hand bookshop), but from contemporary authors I might pick, or encourage boys to read, a Cathy Cassidy, Jacqueline Wilson, or a Helena Pielichaty.”
John Dougherty, author
At about 13, I read every single Zane Grey cowboy book I could lay my hands on. They were idealised stories set in the rugged West that took me way out of my comfort zone but I think I knew those canyons and prairies better than my own back yard – Riders of the Purple Sage being my favourite. I suppose they were the forerunners of the Spaghetti Westerns of the Clint Eastwood era which I still love watching.”
Dianne Hofmeyr, author
I have done a lot of work in my role with libraries trying to encourage reading that is not seen as ‘gendered’. I was the youngest child of four (I’ve got one brother and two sisters), so as a child I read all of ‘Malory Towers’, lots of Dorothy Edwards ‘My Naughty Little Sister’, Judy Blume etc. I do think that breadth of reading as a child was quite formative and has led to me reading very widely now.
Jake Hope, Reading development and children’s book consultant, critic, writer and judge
“I am increasingly approached by school librarians in secondary schools to work ‘just with the girls’ because you ‘only write for girls’ and ‘we had a writer for the boys last time’. I find this worrying, along with the perceived expectation that boys won’t read books with girls as a main character. This is nonsense and needs addressing. Parents, too, are being indoctrinated by the blue-pink divisions, especially in supermarket bookshelves. I even saw a book of fairy tales in TKMaxx delineated in its titles for boys and girls. The boys bagged The Gingerbread Man! I wish I’d bought it now, just to prevent anyone buying it.”
Helena Pielichaty, author
Is there a book you loved, but you felt embarrassed to be seen reading? Was there a book that helped you, or meant a lot to you and someone suggested it was ‘a girls’ book’ or ‘for boys’? Do you know a boy reader who’s been hooked by Malory Towers, or the Rainbow Fairies, or a girl who loves adventure or spy stories?