Exploring Gender, Bias, and Stereotypes in Children's Literature

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On Saturday, June 2nd at the beautiful Halcyon Arts Lab fifteen early childhood educators gathered to discuss gender, bias, and stereotypes in children’s literature. The session began with a community building activity through storytelling.

We then had the honor of listening to a short story telling performance by artist Sheldon Scott, a Teaching for Change board member and Halcyon Arts Lab Fellow, who hosted this event.

Following which, educators participated in a gallery walk and were asked to respond to the following questions:

  • What messages/information promote positive gender identity for young children?
  • What questions have you heard young children ask about gender identity? (How have you responded?)
  • How do you talk about the need for bias-free gender education with school staff and/or families who believe children should be taught and perform gender?
  • What do you notice about the relationship between gender and race in children’s literature and in your classroom?
  • How do you call out gender stereotypes while reading to children?
  • What are strategies for addressing gender bias and stereotypes with children?

After having some time to reflect, educators were asked to stop at one question they found most compelling and discuss the question in their small group. Educators selected one or two of the dozen of books on hand before returning to their seats and participating in DEAR (drop everything and read) time. In groups of three, educators then engaged in small group discussions of their books in light of the gallery walk questions.

 
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The session ended with educators interested in an anti-bias early childhood working group meeting to brainstorm ideas for fall 2018.

Enjoy reading some feedback from the overall session (see below).

  • I learned ways to address/dismantle stereotypes in a developmentally appropriate way. That there are other educators with the same passions as I have!
  • Thinking more about the intersection of art and activism and seeing a range of books dealing with gender in one space was useful. Favorite part is talking to other folks.
  • So great to talk to other educators. Loved Sheldon Scott’s perspective too, someone who can think and discuss in different ways than I normally do.
  • I enjoyed the DEAR time and small group discussions after the poster walk.
Mykella Palmer