I recently came upon a post in my Facebook newsfeed by Rebel Girls. I was curious, so I clicked to see further. It was a video of the story Cinderella but instead of a girl, it was a boy who was tormented by his older wicked stepbrothers and who then went on to the ball, where he danced with the princess, lost his glass shoe at the stroke of midnight and married the princess in the end. I had a good chuckle at the ridiculousness of the whole thing. But what really got to me was the last line which said, “you wouldn't read this to your boys, so why do you read this to your girls?”
Yes. Why do we read such ridiculous stories to girls? As a teacher (I teach 4/5/6-year olds) I always encourage children to bring books into the classroom for story time. Over the years I’ve noticed that girls tend to bring in fairy tales and “Princess books” while the boys bring in “Superhero books”. Now, not that there is anything wrong with fairy tales and superheroes, I read all the fairy tales as a kid. I just think girls a programmed from a very young age to think that they need to look pretty, have beautiful delicate skin, behave in a ladylike manner and find a prince of their dreams who will provide and take care of them. Boys, on the other hand, are expected to be tough, fight their battles and be the ones in charge.
Why should there be these gender roles? Why can’t girls also be the tough ones, the providers and rescuers? Why can't boys get emotional and have feelings? We should be empowering our girls to be strong, independent thinkers.
Right from the start, both girls and boys should be exposed to books that will stir the imagination, excite the mind and inspire them to be creative and dream big. Not forgetting, books should also be fun! More girls should be encouraged to get into STEM programs. Girls should be encouraged to take “shop class” and boys “home economics”. But most importantly, girls should be encouraged to believe that they can achieve anything they set out to do. Just maybe then we’ll see more girls break the proverbial glass ceiling and be on par with the boys of their generation.
Judy Castelino is a teacher with over 25 years of experience working with little kids. She has taught in India and Oman and now teaches at a Montessori school in Mississauga, Canada. In her spare time, she is part of a choir that performs at public events and she enjoys pursuing her hobbies of reading, travel, nature, art and dancing. She brings her vast experience from different parts of the world, her love of reading and shares her many talents and pursuits to enhance the learning experience in the classroom.