In 2012, Let Toys Be Toys began; a Mumsnet post had complained about gendered marketing, and it seemed it was a view shared by many. The campaign gained notoriety and, three years on, they are continuing full-steam ahead. Along with stereotypically gendered toys, Let Toys Be Toys' sights are now also focused on explicitly gendered literature.
In an interview with, PETRIe Features Editor, Katie Aske, campaigner Tricia Lowther explains: “After over a year of tackling toys, we decided to look at books because it was an issue that supporters kept raising with us.”
“Our campaign has really only tackled the extreme end of the gendered books market [so far] - those titles specifically titled for boys or girls,” notes Lowther. “What we've achieved is really only a tiny step, but at least it's getting people talking and drawing attention to the wider issues that need to be discussed."
The campaign already has Ladybird, Usborne, Parragon, Dorling Kindersley, Miles Kelly, Chad Valley and Paperchase on board, all of whom have agreed to stop publishing books with titles labelled ‘boys’ or ‘girls’.
In the past, many publishers have argued that these titles seek to encourage more boys to read. Although Lowther has acknowledged that there is a gender gap in reading, she argues that gendered books are exacerbating the problem and that, in reality, the difference in statistics are not as big as people may believe.
As Lowther reports, some schools don't find any difference in the reading ability of boys and girls and the fact that this is still a means of comparison is one of the larger issues the campaign is bringing to light. The biggest impact on reading levels is in fact the availability of books in a child's home, Lowther claims.
I have to say I agree with the work of Let Toys Be Toys. Gendered books only serve to perpetuate gender stereotypes and restrict the subjects that should be of interest to any child. Whether drawn to tales of princesses, cars or dinosaurs, the decision of what to read should be up to the child. The imagination is a world open to everyone, regardless of which pink or blue (or any colour in between) inclination they hold.
Words: Katie Aske