Mr. Potato Head by Rodrigo Tejeda
Over on Forbes, Kim Elsesser reports on a new effort by the White House to tackle gender stereo-typing in the media and in toys. She highlights that as long as the media and toys constantly tell girls to focus on their appearance first, their broader competence will suffer. Elsesser notes the difference between playing with Barbie and playing with Mr. Potato Head:
In one of my favorite studies, 4- to 7-year-old girls were randomly assigned to play with either a Barbie doll or a Potato Head toy for five minutes. It’s hard to believe such short exposure to any toy could have an impact on a child, but after playing with the assigned toy, the children were asked about their career aspirations. Playing with Barbie (for only five minutes!) actually limited the careers that these girls felt they could attain. Playing with the Potato Head had no such effect. So, toys and media are clearly important when it comes to career.
The study concludes that the Barbie, being fashion focused and sexualised, guides girls to focus on their appearance. Elesser comments, “Study after study shows that when women evaluate themselves based on their appearance there are negative consequences. Women who do this perceive themselves as less competent and even perform worse on objective tests.”
Here at Kids Future Press, where our new book features a mother who is an inventor and a daughter who is a great skateboarder, we feel that the stories children read can also contribute by portraying women and girls in STEM and other roles that don’t focus on a female appearance.
Recently I posted some of the color illustrations (by John Aardema) for our forthcoming book Bicycles, Airships and Things that Go. Here’s a new one..
This week I’m happy to share some great reviews we’ve been getting from test readers. We’ve had four families read the book and here is what we’re hearing back:
“The girls loved the illustrations! I don’t think they were even listening to the story line half the time b/c they were rapidly scanning the pages looking to find stuff”
“Chloe’s favorite page was the one with all the different types of bicycles; specifically the café bike.”
“There was a question about what the playground equipment was made of and I admit I didn’t know what it was. Olivia (4 yrs) quickly answered it was made of wind turbines and even cited ‘wind turbines.’ I guaranteed she’s never heard or said those words together so clearly she retained it from earlier in the book, which was impressive.”
“I love the objective of raising awareness and socializing progressive topics around sustainability, and having a message oriented toward kids.”
“I could honestly envision a series of these books.”
“Overall, a fun book that I look forward to seeing in print”
“I read the book to the boys last night and they liked it”
“On most pages there was a ‘Who-oa! as in ‘How cool!’ and of course they never batted an eye at any of the technologies.. I liked the idea that reading this story taught them that such things are normal. Lots of good, cool, simple ideas”
“I would love to see a whole series of these books.”
Want your family to test read this book? Get in touch with AB (at) kidsfuturepress (dot) com
We have more sneak peeks from our book, Bicycles, Airships and Things that Go. Illustrator John Aardema had been hard at work and we’re starting to see these great results for our story.
Learn more about this title here. Would you like to be one of our test readers? Contact Ann at AB (at) kidsfuturepress (dot) com by September 30th, 2014.
Perhaps not surprisingly, picture books are increasingly illustrating cities and built environments over natural environmental settings.
Research on the 296 Caldecott award winners from 1938 to 2008 found that over the years these books represented nature and animals less and less. (See a discussion of the article, “The Human-Environment Dialog in Award-winning Children’s Picture Books” by J. Allen Williams Jr,Christopher Podeschi, Nathan Palmer, Philip Schwadel and Deanna Meyler here.)
The researchers thought that since environmental problems are of growing concern, it was possible that nature imagery might increase to highlight these issues. But they also realized that given our increasing isolation from the natural world, picture books might echo this isolation. Indeed, according to the World Health Organization, in 1990 less than 40% of the global population lived in cities, but by 2010, more than half of all people lived in an urban areas.
We should note that of course, Caldecott winners are great books, but they may ultimately not be representative of all children’s books.
Still, the issue of how we represent nature and built environments is dear to our hearts here at Kids Future Press. We’re aiming for that middle ground, where stories reflect how the natural world supports people and how people nurture nature within built contexts through “eco-districts,” green roofs, urban agriculture, renewable energy and alternative transportation. While these elements can never be the story itself, they and other “nature” elements, serve as the backdrop for the characters and adventures in our stories.