Bookbug Detective: Should Boys Read Pink Books?

Boy and girl reading a book together
Category: Bookbug

The Bookbug Detective is here to help you with any questions you have about books, reading, songs and rhymes for your little one. Thank you to everyone who has sent in their questions so far. The Detective has selected a question to answer below. If you'd like some book recommendations or advice, send the Bookbug Detective an email or post your question in the comments below.

 

My wee lad's favourite colour is pink. He is fascinated with princesses and ballerinas. This has never bothered me but as he gets older, I wonder if I should be more choosy about which books he reads.

Is there such a thing as a "boy's book" or a "girl's book?" Are there books out there suitable for all genders... or should I just let him read what he likes best?

Thanks so much for your query. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a boy reading pink books about princesses, just as it’s completely fine for a little girl to read books about builders or fire engines.

It is also, I should say, completely normal for you to be concerned about it and I’m sure there are others in the same boat. Our society tends to gender everything (from baby clothes to toys to books) so it’s unsurprising that parents feel worried when their children like books that they’re not 'supposed' to like. For years there has been an influx of books entitled things like ‘Stories for Boys’, or ‘The Girls’ Colouring Book’ - these books clearly sell, otherwise publishers wouldn’t publish them.

However, the tide has been turning a bit in recent times. Let Books be Books, a national campaign calling for an end to gender-specific books was backed by Waterstones, Malorie Blackman, Philip Pullman, several children’s publishers and many others last year. Philip Pullman talks about how damaging gendering books can be: "I'm against anything, from age-ranging to pinking and blueing, whose effect is to shut the door in the face of children who might enjoy coming in. No publisher should announce on the cover of any book the sort of readers the book would prefer. Let the readers decide for themselves."

 It’s not a matter of books that are suitable for all genders, but rather books that are perfect for each individual

Recently, leading publisher Usborne have declared that they’ll stop producing books ‘for girls’ or ‘for boys’. Until that point they had over 30 gendered titles on their list. Peter Usborne, Founder of Usborne books, added: “We may lose some sales over this; we will do this because it is the right thing to do.” Each child is an individual with personal tastes. Some children like books about monsters, others don’t. Some children love books about cute animals, others don't. So it’s not a matter of books that are suitable for all genders, but rather books that are perfect for each individual.

Allowing children to choose their own books will engender a love of reading that will hopefully last a lifetime. Of course parents have a big part to play in which books they buy and suggest, but it’s really important to give children an element of choice.

So in a very basic answer to your question, no there shouldn’t be such a thing as a girl’s book or a boy’s book. And yes, absolutely, your child should read what he likes best, however pink it is.

For further reading, here's a blog about Malorie Blackman and other notable authors joining the campaign to end gendering in books. If you'd like to join the campaign yourself, sign the petition here.

 

Catch up on the previous Bookbug Detective blogs for advice on everything from sitting still for stories to reading with children of different ages.