Let Books Be Books: Pirates Are for Girls Too

Category: Reading

Recently an 8 year old girl started a petition to set the world to rights; she couldn’t understand - quite rightly – why the cover of a pirate activity book suggested it was for boys.

‘What if a girl wanted a pirate book?’

This is a very good question.

It taps into the growing revolt against the gendered marketing of children’s toys and books. It may initially seem harmless: the sky blue of a ‘boys’ book, packed with action, dinosaurs and pirates, and the pastel pink of a ‘girls’ book showing pretty ponies and princesses, because that’s just what they like isn’t it?

Well no it isn't that straightforward, as 8-year-old Els pointed out to her school, parents, friends and the publisher of the pirate book, with a petition to stop book covers suggesting they are suitable for ‘boys’ or ‘girls’.

An excerpt from Els' letter to Scholastic Book Club reads:

'No books should be ‘FOR GIRLS’ or ‘FOR BOYS’...What if a girl wanted a pirate book and it said ‘FOR BOYS’, she might say ‘What’s wrong with me, I like boys' stuff?’

And she's right, this type of marketing isn’t very helpful for several reasons.

It stifles creativity and shoehorns children into boxes at a formative age when they should be exploring. It expresses very clear ideas about what it is acceptable to 'like' or 'read' as a boy or girl. It presses unneccessary limits on imaginations that should be allowed to grow. 

Surely focusing on shaping children into readers and encouraging positive experiences with books alongside the message that 'all reading is good' would be a more valuable message to send out. Books should fundamentally promote exploration and imagination rather than constrain it.

Let Books Be Books is a campaign group advocating for publishers to remove ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ labels from their books. So far eight top publishers are on board, showing a turn in the trend for this type of marketing. Let Books Be Books is supporting El's campaign and you can read more about it here and sign their petition. 

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