By Jimena Durán
The problem is not only the absence of female characters, but it’s also the way women are represented. Often classic stories highlight the strength, courage and skills of men while female characters are stereotyped or one-dimensional: the mother figure, the homemaker, the exotic beauty, the love seeker. Gender is defined through these stereotypes and this is what our children learn from a very early age.
Around the ages of four and five, children become able to differentiate between reality and fantasy, and begin to comprehend how and why things happen. During this stage, many fundamental perspectives are formed that they will hold for life. A study recently published in Science Magazine shows that boys and girls at the age of five associate brilliance with their own gender on roughly the same level. But by six and seven, girls were significantly less likely than boys to do so.
I strongly believe that we need to be more intentional when we share content with our young girls. They need books that help them understand that the strength is within oneself. We need to share stories that place emphasis on being confident, following dreams, sticking up for yourself and using your positive traits to become whatever you want to be.
As a new mom and passionate author, I’ve started to create a library for my little one paying special attention to what is said between the lines. Here are a few of the books I recommend to read to young girls to feed their self-esteem and strength; and also to read to boys, to help them stay in a place of equality.
- Science Wide Open: Children’s books that inspire curiosity with true stories of women scientists and also teach basics of Biology, Chemistry and Physics
- Queen Girls: Queen Girls is a collection of stories of real women turned into fairy tales, such as Bessie Coleman, the first black woman in the world to receive her pilot’s license. For every hard copy book purchased, another is donated to organizations that empower girls and fight illiteracy.
- Rebel Girls: A children’s book packed with 100 bedtime stories about the life of 100 extraordinary women from the past and the present, illustrated by 60 female artists from all over the world. Each woman’s story is written in the style of a fairy tale.
- I Am Yoga: This book is about creativity and the power of self-expression. It encourages children to explore the world of yoga and make room in their hearts for the world beyond it. A kid-friendly guide to 16 yoga poses is included.
When girls do not find themselves or their aspirations reflected in the books they read, or when their image is sexualized, objectified or distorted, they learn a powerful lesson about how they are devalued in society. I truly feel we should consider telling different stories to our children and not sub-estimate the power of the words coming out of our mouths as parents.
Jimena Durán is a parent, author and co-founder of Queen Girls. Follow her on Twitter: @jimena_does