It happened again the other day.
I was in my classroom and my kiddos had just returned from art or music, or someplace else outside of the room. As I was getting ready to gather them on the rug and teach the next lesson, I heard it.
“These are GIRL push ups.”
I turned around, ready to take this learning moment head on. I looked at the children on the rug, some doing push ups and others sitting. I knew exactly what the child was referring to, without even seeing it. Push ups with the knees down.
“Girl push ups?” I asked. “There’s no such thing. Just like there are no ‘girl tables’ and ‘boy tables’ in our classroom. There are everyone push ups. Some just put their knees down to make it easier. But boys AND girls do those push ups.”
Oh, the child replied. Right. I forgot.
Where does this come from? Is this still a thing? Do people really still delineate push ups by gender? Is “throwing like a girl” still an insult?
Well, unfortunately it is, and although I am a mom to two boys, I am a teacher to many girls, and I work very hard to break gender stereotypes within my classroom.
To help me with this task, I read to my class in order to drive home a lesson and spark discussion. Here is my top list of picture books that I use to help break gender stereotypes for girls:
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch: I absolutely love this book. In this category, The Paper Bag Princess tops my list. This is a story about a princess who sets out to save a prince who has been captured by a dragon. Upon being rescued, the prince tells her to “Come back when you are dressed like a real princess.” Needless to say, she doesn’t stick around too long following his rude remarks.
Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty: A new favorite of mine, this rhyming story introduces us to Rosie, a little girl who loves to invent things.
Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty: A companion book to Rosie, this little girl is a scientist, learning about her world through science, experimentation, and discovery.
Not All Princesses Dress in Pink by Jane Yolen: Another rhyming book written to highlight that girls can do anything they want, all while wearing their tiara. Getting muddy? Sure! Playing soccer? Absolutely! You will not find the princesses in this book sitting around waiting to be rescued.
Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women by Catherine Thimmesh: This book highlights different women inventors throughout time, and how they used their imaginations to create tangible ideas.
Marvelous Mattie: How Margaret E Knight Became an Inventor by Emily Arnold McCully: A true story about the woman who invented things such as the process to create paper shopping bags and a safer loom for textile workers.
Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole: A princess who never wants to get married but is forced by her parents to look for a suitor. She does so, and only one meets all of the requirements. When she gives him a kiss, he turns into a toad, and she lives happily ever after… by herself!
Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman: I have had this book in my collection for quite a while. The story highlights Grace, a black child who loves to act out stories. When she tries out for the lead role of Peter Pan, she is told by her peers that she is not cut out for it because she is both a girl, and has dark skin. Grace goes on to proves them wrong, never giving up with the support of her mother and grandmother behind her.