Following a petition from 8-year-old Els, Scholastic has become the ninth UK publisher to agree to drop ‘for girls’ and ‘for boys’ labels from books.
Els has written to Scholastic asking them to stop stocking books labelled ‘for boys’ or ‘for girls’ in the book fairs that regularly visit the school. Says Els in her letter, “No books should be ‘for boys’ or ‘for girls’… Books should be for everyone and we all like different things.” She gathered support from friends at school, getting over 80 signatures for her petition.
We contacted Scholastic to draw their attention to Els petition. We also asked them to drop or retitle books from their own list such as ‘War Stories for Boys’ and to change their online ‘Book Wizard’, which, until Friday, offered very different questions, and suggested different books to boys and girls.
“At Scholastic, we appreciate that every child is different and has the right to choose the books that are right for them; we aim to have something on our list for every child. Our Book Clubs and Fairs are designed to offer children the widest selection of books from the majority of UK publishers. We think it is important to encourage free choice for all children. The recent inclusion of a Pirate Book for Boys (from another publisher) was only featured on our March Clubs leaflet in order to clear stock – it will not be featured again. Our website is in the process of being re-launched and a new Book Wizard is part of this work; already the boy and girl selection has been removed from Book Wizard. We are no longer publishing anything new pitched ‘for boys’ or ‘for girls’ in the title. Any historic titles still in the market will be reissued with new covers on reprint. We have not yet received Els’ petition but, of course, we will respond to her personally when we receive it.”
Scholastic are doing the right thing
It’s great news that Scholastic have agreed to let books be books and drop titles ‘for boys’ and ‘for girls’, and to rewrite their ‘Book Wizard’ online tool to focus on children’s individual interests instead of assumptions about what boys and girls will like.
Els’ excellent letter lays out the issue really clearly – it’s simply not on to tell children that boys and girls are meant to like different things, and we’re delighted that Scholastic have responded so quickly to her call for them to change.
Scholastic’s book fairs give them a huge presence in schools, so they have a particular responsibility to market books in a way that’s inclusive.
Shutting out readers – why it matters
Scholastic’s own research project ‘Open a world of possible‘ highlights the importance of children freely choosing the books they want to read. Labelling books ‘for girls’ or ‘for boys’, or assuming that boys and girls’ interests will be different, stands in the way of that free choice. Gender simply isn’t a good guide to what children will enjoy.
These labels also peddle dated and limiting stereotypes about boys and girls, stereotypes which can be actively harmful to children’s reading, particularly for boys. Why would anyone want to shut out a reader and tell a child that a book is not for them because of their gender?
Let Books Be Books
Nine publishers, including Penguin Random House and Usborne Books, have now agreed to let books be books. The campaign has received support from authors including Neil Gaiman, Anne Fine, Malorie Blackman and Joanne Harris. Find out more about our campaign asking publishers to Let Books Be Books and sign our Let Books Be Books petition.Sign books petition