November 24, 2014
Ladybird Books promises an end to gender-specific children’s books
by Nick Davies
British publisher Ladybird Books has had success in the past with children’s books Favourite Fairy Tales for Girls and Favourite Stories for Boys. But according to an announcement from the company, they will be dropping these gender-specific books, as part of the Let Books Be Books campaign in the UK.
The goal of Let Books Be Books is to remove labels that are limiting and potentially damaging to young readers in the way they delineate what is OK for boys and girls, respectively, to enjoy. Ladybird’s titles, for example, differentiate the masculine and feminine with titles that indicate that “fairy tales” are for girls and not boys. In addition, the cover art for the girls’ book is largely pink, with a princess, a dove, and (naturally) a fairy, whereas the boys’ book is blue, and features an ogre and a fox.
The campaign lays out ts reasons against gendered marketing on its website:
Children are listening, and take seriously the messages they receive from books, from toys, from marketing and the adults around them. Do we really want them to believe that certain things are off-limits for them because of their gender? They’re not ‘getting it wrong’ if a girl likes robots, or if a boy wants to doodle flowers. These artificial boundaries turn children away from their true preferences, and provide a fertile ground for bullying.
Just like labelling toys for girls or boys, we think these book titles are limiting and restrictive. It’s time that publishers Let Books Be Books and leave children free to choose their interests for themselves.
Let Books Be Books is part of the Let Toys Be Toys project, which sets the similar goal of eschewing gender labels that can make boys feel ashamed for wanting to play with dolls, or girls for wanting to play with trucks—letting kids, instead, seek out the toys that they enjoy most. Let Books Be Books is calling for publishers to sign their petition promising not to produce any boy- or girl-specific books.
Ladybird is the seventh publisher to agree to this pledge; it has not yet announced any plans to rebrand itself as Gender-Neutral-Person-Bird Books.
Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.