gender stereotypes

How often have you or your children been told that girls like pink and boys like blue? How often have they heard that boys will be bread-winners while girls homemakers? Gender stereotyping is a plague to society and it, unfortunately, permeates many aspects of our children’s lives. From the gifts they give and receive to what they’re taught in school. But it is regressive and often hampers our children from believing that they can be what they want to be, and instead, they feel they must conform to the role or profession expected of their sex. As always, books can play a large role in changing this perception, and if we read the correct books to them when they’re young, they won’t grow up with these preconceived notions. While books such as Goodnight Stories For Rebel Girls, Like A Girl and Boys Who Dare To Be Different are great non-fiction, here are 8 works of fiction that will crush gender stereotypes for your kids.

Note: This list is for kids between the ages of 3-8.


Oliver Button Is A Sissy

Tomie dePaola

This book is a classic. Published in 1979, it addressed the issue of gender stereotyping much before it became popular to do so. Oliver Button is not fond of things other boys his age typically are, and he would rather play with paper dolls and draw colourful pictures. As a result, the other boys end up calling him a sissy. Things finally change for the bullied Oliver when his parents sign him up for a dance class. He enters a talent contest and although he doesn’t win, he changes his friends’ opinion of him, and they start calling him a star and not a sissy. This book is about accepting who you are, developing your inherent talents, even if they may not be ‘typical’ for your sex, and is as important a read for parents as it is for children.

 Buy it here.


Rosa Plays Ball

Jessica Spanyol

Part of the All About Rosa series, this book is important for all those girls who think that playing with balls or enjoying sports is only for boys. A cute, bespectacled, otherwise ‘girly’ Rosa enjoys playing with balls and does so unabashedly. There is no reason why girls can’t play or be good at sports and it’s high time we throw out silly notions, such as playing sports will make them ‘manly’ or that they will develop unsightly muscles or become lesbians! Unfortunately, this is how many Indians think, and this book will teach them otherwise. If you enjoy this, you can even buy the All About Clive series, targeted at boys, by the same author.

Buy it here.


William’s Doll

Charlotte Zolotow

It’s 2019 and the last debate we should be having is whether or not boys should be playing with dolls, but sadly it’s still ongoing. Many parents even see the benefit in boys playing with dolls, but there are people who believe that this fun imagination-building activity makes boys less masculine. In this book, William really wants a doll, but he is called a creep or a sissy for wanting one; even his father refuses to buy him a doll. Finally, seeing reason, his grandmother buys him a doll and everyone realises it will help him be a good father in future. To help get over the preconceived (but silly) notion that boys shouldn’t have dolls, buy this book.

Buy it here.


Princess Smartypants

Babette Cole

How often are Indian girls told that they don’t need to be smart, as long as they can cook delicious food, look pretty, and be good wives? It’s a pity, to say the least. In this hilarious book, Princess Smartypants enjoys being a girl but does not care to get married. She’d rather ride bikes, and have fun, and avoid her pesky suitors, and she thinks up the most fun and imaginative ways to do exactly that. If you enjoy this book, you can even buy its sequel, Princess Smartypants Breaks The Rules.

Buy it here.


Made By Raffi

Craig Pomranz

Many of us are guilty of stereotyping certain activities and hobbies as ‘girly’ or ‘boyish’. Knitting, sewing, an interest in fashion, etc. always seem to fall into the girly area. But many boys may have an interest in them and may suppress it as it isn’t considered manly. In this book, Raffi doesn’t care for typical boyish things, such as being rough or loud and would rather spend his time knitting. When he decides to knit a scarf for his father, he is ridiculed. However, at the end of the book, he saves the day with his knitting skills when there is a costume disaster during the school play and is applauded by his peers for his talent. This is a great book to understand the importance of letting children enjoy the hobbies they naturally gravitate toward and not forcing them to adopt a gender stereotypical activity.

Buy it here.


The Princess In Black

Shannon Hale & Dean Hale

This New York Times Bestseller, the first book in the incredibly successful series of the same name is not only entertaining but is also a great read to help girls believe that it isn’t only men who are superheroes.  Princess Magnolia is everything a princess is supposed to be- elegant and well-behaved- but when it comes to fighting monsters, not many can beat her. When the monster alarm goes off in the middle of her afternoon tea with a Duchess, it is up to Princess Magnolia A.K.A Princess in Black, to save the day. This book is perfect to show little girls that they can be dainty and, at the same time, wear black and fight battles, whether metaphorical or real.

Buy it here.


Tough Guys Have Feelings Too

Keith Negley

Young boys are often told ‘you’re a boy, boys don’t cry’ when they get hurt. Or it is implied that it isn’t masculine for boys to show their emotions and feelings, such as love or sadness. Studies have shown that boys who are told to suppress their emotions have a higher chance of developing mental issues or are more prone to violence. This is the perfect book to teach little boys that even the toughest of men- knights, wrestlers, superheroes, and their own fathers- have feelings and are capable of expressing their emotions.

Buy it here.


My Princess Boy

Cheryl Kilodavis

Although on the expensive side, this is a pertinent and important book to read to young boys. Many parents, Indians especially, have issues with their boys liking ‘girly’ things, such as princesses and some boys may even prefer to dress up like one, instead of a macho prince. Inspired by the author’s own son who liked dressing up as a princess, this book reiterates the fact that it is perfectly fine for boys to enjoy princess games and movies, dress up in sequined gowns and frilly dresses and that pink isn’t only meant for girls.

Buy it here.

As a young boy, Nirbhay had the annoying habit of waking up at 5 a.m. Since television was a big no-no, he had no choice but to read to entertain himself and that is how his love affair with books began. A true-blue Piscean, books paved the path to his fantasy worlds- worlds he’d often rather stay in. Nirbhay is the co-founder and publisher of The Curious Reader.

You can read his articles, here.