Books that teach kindness and acceptance are so important during a child’s early years. And books that inspire children to achieve whatever they want are fundamental in creating an inclusive and more equal world. These four books are trailblazers for the cause. Each of them discusses gender in their own unique way. Adults and children alike could learn a lot from their example.
Inspiring women: Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo
Girls can achieve whatever they set their mind to. This is the message that Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo express in their wildly popular book series Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. From Joan of Arc to Beyoncé, these books tell the stories of women throughout history who have sparked change and achieved their goals. When interviewed, authors Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo said, “we felt Rebel Girls was so needed, so timely” and that “Rebel Girls comes from a very personal place, but it is not just joyful and celebratory — it is also a place of pain.”. After facing sexism in each of their careers and throughout their lives, it was clear to these two women that young girls needed to feel supported, motivated, and inspired — their stories endeavour to provide these things at an early age.
In an era of climate change protests, young women such as Greta Thunberg are taking the reins and proving that they are a force to be reckoned with. It is an incredible time to grow up as a young woman, and books like this one remind girls of their unfathomable potential.
Gender Fluidity: Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
More and more children are feeling comfortable expressing their gender fluidity, despite the difficulties society might throw at them. Transgender and non-binary children need to be seen, supported, and celebrated. Books like Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love do an incredible job in this respect. The book tells the tale of Julián and his abuela (his grandmother) through beautiful illustrations and few words. After seeing a group of mermaids on the subway, Julián decides that he wants to be a mermaid as well. He then dresses up in a make-shift mermaid costume as soon as he gets home. After his abuela seems initially disgruntled, she then returns to Julián with a gift and reassures him that she will love him no matter what.
Jessica Love tells a beautiful story about acceptance and finding your true self. It is a heart-warming read which tells children that they can be whatever they want to be, while teaching adults to show unwavering support.
Same-sex relationships: And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
It’s a timeless tale: a love story set in New York City. But this time the spotlight is on Roy and Silo, two male penguins who live in New York Zoo. Peter Parnell tells the story of these two penguins who spend all of their time together and decide to build a nest to share.
When all of the other penguins start finding eggs in their nests, Roy and Silo are at a loss as to where their eggs are. Then, one of the zookeepers has the idea to give them another couple’s unwanted egg. The romantic pair nurture the egg and start a family together, proving that love can combat all boundaries no matter who you are.
Based on a true story, And Tango Makes Three warms hearts and teaches children valuable lessons about love and acceptance.
Toxic Masculinity: The Storybook Knight by Helen Docherty
Books for boys don’t have to be full of dramatic feats and displays of chivalry. They can celebrate gentle heroes too. The Storybook Knight tells the tale of Leo the mouse, “a gentle knight in thought and word and deed.”. Leo prefers reading to fighting, choosing to face his opponents armed with a book rather than a weapon. He encounters a pugilistic griffin, a ravenous bridge troll, and finally the fiery red dragon and teaches them about reading and kindness one by one.
This delightful story offers a gentle alternative to the toxic masculinity narrative. It teaches children about kindness and tolerance, while challenging outdated gender stereotypes.
The world of publishing and commercial book printing is clearly waking up to the demand for a more diverse range of children’s books. Thanks to innovative authors like these ones, we are seeing an influx of inclusive books which offer a new narrative to young children. Breaking down gender binaries at a young age is crucial for children to flourish and feel accepted in an ever-changing world.