‘Call Me Tree’: A Children’s Book With No Gender Specific Pronouns
Why is it important that we have children’s books that are inclusive of characters outside of a male/female binary?
There are so many reasons why it’s important. I’ll begin with reflection. I know when I was a child and I didn’t see anyone anywhere that looked or felt like me I felt ‘less than,’ like I didn’t matter. It wasn’t something I knew with my mind, it was more of a background ‘fact’ about reality. Working with kids, I’ve become very conscious of what messages they’re surrounded by all the time. They’re absorbing everything to understand the world around them and if there’s no one that looks or feels like them in their books or any other media, it means something. It means something about them and about the world.
With meaning in mind, current research shows that when kids who see images in their books of kids who look like them playing with kids who do not look like them, they are more likely to play with kids who are different than they are. The research goes on to share that it doesn’t have to be reflected in the text to have an effect! This demonstrates the power of children’s books and why it’s important to begin early sharing books like these.
Finally, it’s important because there is truth here. We can learn through nature, history and studying cultures from all over the world and throughout time, that there are more than two ways to identify and express gender. Acknowledging this simple truth, especially as reflected in nature, helps take apart the out dated idea of a binary gender system. Gender nonconformity is one of the leading causes of bullying and can have long lasting, even tragic consequences. By beginning early and sharing age appropriate books that help kids see through gender assumptions, gender creative kids can relax and trust that they are perfectly natural and valuable. And kids who are cisgender can know that they are part of a larger picture of natural diversity. This sets the stage for more learning about diversity and inclusion as they develop and helps dismantle gender based bullying before it begins.