Strong Female Characters – Not Just for Girls

Tome Reader

Photo by QQ Li

Children’s  literature abounds with books full of strong males, so much so that I actually get excited when a new book comes out showcasing a strong female just for the fact that there s a strong female in the book. It shouldn’t be that way. Our species has a general 1:1 gender ratio, changing a bit through various ages. In the old adage that art imitates life (or life imitates art), we should see a much larger number of female characters in books. We don’t. Of those female characters we do meet, most are secondary at best or portrayed as a weak character.

The idea of reading books with our daughters that showcase some of the stronger female characters isn’t new. I’m happy to say that most of the parents I know seek out books with strong female leads to share with their daughters. It’s an exciting thing to share good literature with someone you love, and while I would love to cheer this fact on, I’m left with an incomplete feeling: Why are they only sharing these books with their daughters?

Reality shows me that those parents of daughters looking for strong female leads for their daughters aren’t looking for those same books for their sons. The parents of only sons or of children whose daughters aren’t old enough for the more involved chapter books aren’t even looking (generalization, yes, but you see my point). There is a giant disparity here.

Books with strong female characters are not just for our daughters; they are also for our sons. Good books are good books, and given the opportunity, our sons enjoy books with strong female leads just as much as our daughters. Some of my ten year old son’s favorite books have strong female characters and female leads. A good book is a good book.

So why do parents search out to equalize the characters in books for their daughters but not their sons?  Those books with strong female characters show strength for our daughters but seem to be lacking for our sons. In other words, it is fine for girls to identify with male characters, but female characters are lacking when it comes to boys. It’s sexism in literature, and the majority of parents are unintentionally  perpetuating this concept with their children.

What can be done about it? Share good books, including those with strong female leads with your children, regardless of gender. Discuss books with your kids. Point out disparities, listen to their ideas, share your thoughts, and make a difference.

Reconnecting through Reading

Welcome to the March Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Discovering through BooksThis post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted by The Positive Parenting Connection and Authentic Parenting. This month our participants have investigated what role books have played in their lives. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

42 of 365 ~ Storytime

Photo by Tanya Little

Ours is a family of bibliophiles. We drag books home from the library. We have our own family library of our favorite books. We review advanced copies of books from authors and publishers. Many of our family jokes are based on books. We read…a LOT! While you will often find one or more fo us curled up with a good book, we also read as a family. Many reasons are given for reading as a family.:

  • Being read to is the most important reading instruction your child can receive. Rather than forced reading instruction methods which often hinder the process and are forced on many children before they are ready, children who are read to are more equipped to pick up a book and read. Children from literary homes will learn to read without any formal instruction.
  • Reading aloud to a child builds vocabulary and proper grammar, improving not only their reading but also their language skills and communication.
  • Reading aloud stimulates a child’s imagination, fostering creativity and critical thinking skills simultaneously. Books provide a jumping point for pretend play and continued adventures, a key component of not only creative thinking but also of intellectual and emotional growth. Children who spend a lot of time in pretend play learn social and communication skills by co-operating with others in the game.
  • Reading as a family provides automatic shared experiences. Our young family has hundreds of jokes and catch phrases, all extracted from books.
  • Reading aloud introduces other cultures, other experiences, and various topics of discussion. We have had many great discussions based on what we have read.
  • Reading isn’t just for kids who can sit still. Many children may wish to play with small toys or work on a craft while listening to you read.

Finally, no matter what kind of day we have had, no matter my mood or what stress life holds, at the end of the day (or the middle depending on when we are reading), I know that I can snuggle up with my children, pull out our current chapter book, and reconnect with them. It’s our own version of the old adage “Don’t go to bed mad.” “Don’t go to bed without reading.” I can definitely see a difference on those days when we didn’t make time for reading right before bed the night before, regardless of how much we read during the day.

New to reading chapter books with your kids? You might want to check out Jim Trelease’s The Read-Aloud Handbook: Sixth Edition.

Visit The Positive Parenting Connection and Authentic Parenting to find out how you can participate in the next Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants: