Letter to Igloo books

Igloo Books are among the biggest publishers of gender-labelled children’s books in the UK, with titles like ‘2001 Pretty Stickers for Girls’ and or the Story Time Treasury: ‘Stories for Boys’ containing “classic adventures, from Aladdin to Jack and the Beanstalk” (shame these are off limits for girls)… We wrote to them back in May, but we’re still waiting for a reply.

We’d love to hear back from Igloo Books. Could you help us give them a nudge, and if you haven’t already, please sign our Let Books Be Books petition?

Dear Mr Styring,

Let Toys Be Toys is a parent-led campaign which is asking retailers, manufacturers, and publishers to stop labelling toys and books as ‘for girls’ or ‘for boys’, and let the children decide for themselves what toys they would like to play with, and what books they would like to read. We believe, along with thousands of our supporters, that boys and girls are more alike than different, and share more interests in common than not.

You may be aware that we have launched a campaign recently called Let Books Be Books, along with a petition asking publishers, including Igloo Books, to stop labelling books as for ‘boys’ or for ‘girls’. We strongly believe that these labels are narrowing children’s choices and imaginations by telling them what they ‘should’ be reading, instead of letting them choose books which interest them. We also believe that limiting children’s book choices in such an arbitrary way is confusing for children and can be detrimental to their development.

Although the Let Books Be Books petition was only launched on World Book Day 2014, we have already gained over 5,000 signatures. Many prominent authors, including children’s laureate Malorie Blackman, poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, former children’s laureate Anne Fine, Phillip Pullman and Pippa Goodhart among others have come out in support of the campaign, as well as Waterstones bookstore. The Independent on Sunday also announced on 16 March 2014 that they would no longer be reviewing gendered book titles.

Usborne Books responded almost immediately to our campaign, confirming that they will not be producing any more books with ‘for girls’ or ‘for boys’ in the title, and Parragon Books has also responded to us stating that they would not be creating any new titles referring to boy/girl in the UK.

Over the last year, we have been contacted by many supporters who have concerns about several of the titles currently on your website which are being marketed in shops across the UK. Researching your website, we found over forty books which are labelled specifically for boys or for girls. Titles we have been contacted about include “Who’s Hiding: 501 Things for Little Girls to Find” and “501 Things for Little Boys to Spot”; “My First Stories for Girls”; “Cookery Book for Girls”; and “Treasuries-Stories for Boys”, among others. Interestingly, when looking at the 44 gendered titles listed on your website, we found only 7 of these aimed at boys.

Some of the reasons people gave for signing the petition are as follows:
“Because I enjoyed boys’ books every bit as much as girls’ book when I was a child. To gender-label them is to limit choice and pleasure.”
“I have students coming to my school aged 11 believing that boys shouldn’t read or enjoy ‘girly’ books and vice versa. It’s really difficult to persuade them otherwise, and these types of marketing decisions by publishers don’t help.”

“I work for one of the guilty publishers, and this is one of my peeves. When I was a little girl, I never liked pink, I never liked glitter, I never liked hearts. I would have been more drawn to a blue cover, but then would have been put off by the word ‘boys’. I am a firm believer that making books gender-neutral is better for kids and even for publishers (when you label books boys/girls, you tend to sell more labelled girls). While I am not in a position to change things at my current company, I hope to eventually move somewhere so I can have input to make gender-neutral publishing the norm for younger ages.”

We are asking if you will consider removing the gender labels on your books on your next print run, and let children choose the books which most interest them. We would be happy to meet with you to discuss this further. Let Toys Be Toys also runs a Toymark award scheme whereby we promote businesses producing and marketing children’s toys in an inclusive way. We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Tessa Trabue
Let Toys Be Toys

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