Thursday, 21 September 2017

The 'Gender-Neutral' Experiment

There's been quite a bit in the news about girls' and boys' clothes recently. Whether it's the takedown of Clarks and their flimsy girls' school shoes, the news of John Lewis's 'gender neutral' children's clothes or various other stories around the issue, it seems to be a really hot topic.

There is a certain type of internet commenter who will jump on any story about 'gender neutral' clothing or any call for an end to gender segregation in clothes, saying that "girls will be girls and boys will be boys". These are the comments I understand the least. Because surely these people should welcome an end to separate boys' and girls' sections in clothes shops.

Hear me out on this one. By their logic, it is human nature for girls to like pink and butterflies and boys to like blue and diggers. That's just the way it is. There's no point to putting all the clothes together, they say, because boys and girls will still gravitate towards clothing currently aimed at them.

Well, let's put this to the test, shall we? Let's have all clothes shops get rid of their boys and girls sections and see if kids still automatically colour code themselves. It's an experiment!

While we're at it, let's make the experiment a bit more rigorous. Let's dress babies in all colours of the rainbow rather than predominantly pink or blue from birth. Let's get rid of the boy/girl divide in toy shops too (Let Toys Be Toys are working on that very successfully) and make sure our children are all given equal access to those toys. Let's pair every book featuring a damsel in distress with one about a princess who does her own rescuing, and every macho superhero book with a story of a gentle, caring boy. Let's even up the numbers in kids' TV shows and get rid of the stereotypical behaviour in there. Let's stop talking to little girls about how pretty they are or to little boys about how strong they are quite so very much. You see where I'm going with this, don't you?

Really, if you believe gender difference is innate and not a result of the society and culture we live in, then this is the perfect opportunity to test out your hypothesis! Great, isn't it? Just get rid of all the stereotyping that our children are surrounded in from birth, and see if the girls still reach for pink every time while the boys head for blue.

Come on then, internet commenters, let's get this experiment under way. Prove us lot in the PC brigade wrong.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Review: 'One Happy Tiger' by Catherine Rayner

I've been to the library with Toddler again and picked up this little gem of a book.

I have a vague memory of reading 'Augustus and His Smile' with Girl Child a few years ago and really loving it. I adore Catherine Rayner's illustration style - how you can see the sketching and experimenting that goes into each picture and yet they are still all so realistic. I think it's a really good way of showing children that art doesn't have to be 'perfect' in the conventional sense to be beautiful and evocative. There are pencil lines showing and paint bleeding and yet each illustration is a joy to look at. I may well point this out to my perfectionist five year old!

The reason I chose this book for Toddler is because, as well as introducing counting, it introduces feelings. It's very important to me that both my children grow up to be emotionally literate - to recognise feelings in themselves and others and respond appropriately. While feelings do come up in many board books, I was impressed at the range of emotions covered by this little book - it goes beyond the usual 'happy' and 'sad' to show various more subtle emotions such as curiosity and surprise.

At the moment Toddler isn't as in love with the book as I am - he prefers rhyming books, or books with actions - but I might revisit this book when he's a little older as I just love the gentle way it introduces different emotional states. And the illustrations are just lovely - the detail in every page is so fascinating to study.

It's not often you find a counting book worth writing about but this is definitely one. It's so lovely to read, to look at, to talk about and has a depth you rarely get with counting books. As soon as Toddler is showing more of an interest in numbers I'll be getting this book again!

Linking up with #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum and Kids Love To Read #KLTR hosted by Laura's Lovely Blog and The Inspiration Edit.

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Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Review: Animal-themed books from Maverick

Toddler has recently got into animals in a big way. We rediscovered Girl Child's old toy farm a couple of weeks back and since then he's been fascinated, and has even started trying out animal noises - mostly 'baa' but also the occasional 'neigh' and even 'do-do-doo' for a cockerel!!

When the lovely people at Maverick Books sent me two of their latest picture books to try out, I was delighted to see they were animal themed - more stimulus for Toddler's animal obsession!

We tried out 'Hamster Sitter Wanted' by Tracy Gunaratnam first. This is a fun little story about a pair of adventurous hamsters who find themselves in charge of a mischievous litter of baby hamsters and need to find a sitter fast so they can continue their thrill-seeking lifestyle.

As is customary in our house, bookworm Girl Child had a read of it herself first and was a bit unsure about it - I think the humour didn't quite come across at first when reading in her head. But when I read it aloud to both children, she soon started chuckling at the funny names and the antics of the baby hamsters in the fabulous illustrations by Hannah Marks! It's a good story for reading together, talking about the jokes and pointing out the funny happenings that aren't mentioned in the text. Noticing details that aren't obvious in the text is something that Girl Child worked a lot on in Reception so this was a good continuation of that.

Next, we read 'Clumpety Bump' by Phil Allcock. This is a story about a lazy horse who 'can't be bothered' to take his owner, Wally Wobblebottom, on his many errands to help his friends. Girl Child liked this one from the start, perhaps because of the horse owner's funny name! Toddler really liked the horse, and being able to try out his animal noises as I read. And I loved the moral of the story - that doing something for someone else is good because it makes them happy. It was a good conversation starter with Girl Child about why we should help others even if we don't feel like it.

We really enjoyed both of these books, and I'm sure we'll be revisiting them many times as Toddler's love of animals develops!

DISCLAIMER: I was given these books for the purposes of this review but all words and opinions are my own.

Linking up with #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum.

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