Thursday, July 30, 2015

Tips for Children's Librarian's Fighting Gender Stereotypes

Illustration by Elizabeth B. Martin

I wrote this blog to share on my Feminist Librarian Facebook page. It is a page I run with 3 other librarians and we share news, information, and thoughts on feminist issues relating to children's media, literature, and libraries. If you haven't like my page yet, please do so now! :)
  • As children's librarians, we should refrain from making assumptions of children's reading tastes based on their gender. If boys want to read Rainbow Magic books, do not judge them and certainly don’t deny them the opportunity to do so. Same goes for girls; if girls want to read a series often read by boys, encourage them to do so. Children should always have the freedom to explore books freely without judgement. As children’s librarians, we must conduct reference interviews by asking children about their unique tastes and interests rather than making grand assumptions based solely on their gender.
  • Introduce children to story characters — and real people — who take part in all kinds of activities. Recommend books, TV shows, videos and software programs that feature a variety of cultures or present men and women in nontraditional roles. Also seek out stories that show a wide range of body types, personal traits and talents. (Source: PBS)


    Here are links to booklists that challenge gender stereotypes: 


    8 Books Breaking Gender Stereotypes
    This was a website I made for a project on gender stereotypes within picture books. This link provides 8 books that specifically portray families, females, and males, in nontraditional gender roles. 


    14 Books that Challenge Gender Stereotypes
    From the website "What Do We Do All Day", these titles celebrate the fact that not every child fits into society’s preconceived notion of what it means to be a boy or a girl.


    Anti-Defamation League's List
    Brought to you by the Anti-Defamation League's Miller Early Childhood Initiative Question Corner, this is an excellent list of children's books that break gender stereotypes.  


    10 Children's Books that Break Gender Stereotypes
    Brought to you by, this list is filled with books showing diverse characters breaking gender stereotypes.

  • If a parent becomes uncomfortable seeing a child read a specific series, the most we can do is clarify messages so parents feel heard. Be empathetic and try not to act judgmental towards the parent for feeling uncomfortable. Permit verbal venting and remain calm. Once you have heard them express their concerns, gently remind parents that it may be helpful for children to read a wide variety of literature that includes positive and uplifting portrayals of both genders. If they are receptive, you may say that sometimes children also read books marketed towards the other gender because they are curious about the opposite sex. Lastly, it's better to support a child’s natural curiosity and interest in a specific children's book because children need to develop their own personal reading tastes and preferences.
  • Avoid gendered bibliographies and reference materials within the library such as “chik-lit” book lists. Refrain from having gendered book displays. For example, do NOT have a sign that reads “books for boys!” or “books for girls!” This should be obvious but sadly, some librarians haven’t gotten this memo. Check out this one display a woman tweeted about:

This is a good example of what NOT to do. (Source: Campcreek on Twitter)

  • If your library has a play area or early literacy center, fill it with gender neutral toys and toys of all kinds as much as possible. Do not be rigid on what you include in the center. For example, don't exclude dolls because you think that boys won't play with them. Encourage children to play with a variety of toys and not just ones that fit within the confines of gender stereotypes.

  • Lastly, be a role model and set an example. There is no replacement for modeling the type of person you want children to look up to. Use gender neutral language.The words we use around children are crucial to how they will characterize gender.  Be careful of making words applicable to only one gender.  Instead of saying fireman say firefighter.  Replace policeman and postman with police officer and postal carrier.  These simple changes make a huge difference in combatting gender stereotypes. (Source:
Have any other tips? Please add yours in the comments!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Reading Under the Stars

This is a fun program idea that was inspired by a family literacy night that was held at Lake Park Elementary School in Addison, IL where I volunteer on occasion. This would make a great all ages family-friendly event or could be a fun program for a smaller targeted group!

Title: Reading Under the Stars! or Camp Read-A-Lot

Age: Children in grades K-5 and their families or this could be a program targeted towards a specific age range like children in grade K-3. I would recommend this program require registration due to the craft and outside bear hunt. Smaller groups are good for the outside bear hunt. 

Objective: Children will listen to some campfire tales while enjoying some s'mores, go on a bear hunt outside, and then complete a craft. Craft will be binoculars made out of toilet paper rolls. If you want, you can tell some more eerie tales (like stories from Alvin Schart’z book, In a Dark Dark Room) and have the program during for the week of Halloween!

Set up: Dim the lights and project an image of stars onto the ceiling using a projector and a laptop. If a projector isn’t available, use white Christmas lights behind a black see-through cloth and attach it to the wall. Set up the room to look like a campground – have chairs, maybe a tent, and pretend campfires made with paper towels and tissue paper.

 Lake Park Elementary School in Addison, IL projected an image of stars onto the ceiling for their "Camp Read-a-Lot" themed early literacy event!


  1. For mini campfires: paper towel rolls, red/orange/yellow tissue paper to make flames, and Christmas lights. What’s a camp out without a fire? Kathy over at Home Sweet Homebody has directions on making these cute mini campfires. Click here for directions. Looking for a full size blaze? Allie from No Time for Flashcards has easy to follow directions!
  2. Projector and laptop to project stars onto the wall (Basically projecting an HD quality image of space onto the wall, see image above) OR you can use a black semi-sheer cloth and hang Christmas lights behind it to make the room look starry.
  3. Binoculars craft items, instructions from All Kids Network
    • 2 toilet paper rolls
    • Construction paper
    • Glue
    • Scotch tape
    • Scissors
    • Stickers, crayons, etc.
    • Optional - yarn
  4. Portable PA system (if you have one) OR just a portable boombox to play sound effects
  5. CD or iPod with sound effects - Sound effects that coincide with the book We're Going on a Bear Hunt can be downloaded online (there are many websites where you can download free sound effects, like for example). Youtube also has some sound effects.
  6. Books: We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen, Camping Spree with Mr. Mcgee by Chris Van Dusen , and Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping by Melanie Watt.
  7. You can also sing the Sleeping Bag Chant song by Carole Peterson! Youth Services Librarian, Kelly, talks about how you can even turn that song into a flannel board, here.
  8. Optional ingredients for s'mores: graham crackers (Try to have gluten-free available as an option for patrons who may have an allergy), chocolate (I recommend dairy free chocolate in case of allergies. "Enjoy Life" is a great brand. They use rice milk), and marshmallows (I recommend gelatin-free "Dandies" marshmallows. I live in an area with a large Indian population and many patrons are vegetarian so for me, it's always good to be on the safe side and avoid food products with animal ingredients).
  9. Book cart with nonfiction books centered around camping, bears, owls, nature crafts, and campfire tales


  1. First children and families will create s'mores to eat while they enjoy the stories

  2. Next, the children will listen to the short storytime lasting around 15 to 20 minutes (Read 1st book, read flannel board story, read 2nd book, and end with the "Sleeping Bag Chant".)

  3. Afterwards, children will go outside for a Bear Hunt. This is going to a really fun and interactive storytelling experience that will take place on the perimeter of the library. Play sound effects for each scene in the book, like the sound of walking through slushy mud (Squelch squerch! Squelch squerch!), sounds of going through the river (Splash splosh! Splash splosh!), etc. The sound effects REALLY enhance the story! have children also repeat each phrase said in the book after you've said it, like “We’re not scared!”

    Early Literacy Tip: Encourage the children to take an active part in the book readings. They enjoy saying the words, just as if they were reading it. Be excited about the story even when you're reading it for the umpteenth time. Reading aloud involves much more than saying words and turning pages. When you show excitement about the pictures, story, setting, and characters, you will excite the children too. 


  4. After the storytelling event, children will go back inside and create binoculars (to be used to watch for bears, of course!)
  5. Encourage patrons to check out books from the cart that are centered around the camping theme!