Let Books Be Books – where’s the harm?

I was very lucky as a child to have a mother who adored books, and she passed this love of reading on to me. I would read anything I could get my hands on (my mother ended up hiding her horror collection from me), from The BFG to Little Women, Goosebumps to The Famous Five, The Hardy Boys to The Hobbit, you name it, I read it.

If you’d told me that I couldn’t read certain children’s books I’d have been very disappointed – and probably have snuck a read anyway.

Like I say, I was lucky to have been brought up by my mother. Turns out I was also lucky to have been born when I was.

As I got older I discovered that many of my peer group found no love in reading, and were easily put off. It didn’t take much for some of them. But at least back then there weren’t a huge amount of books which were labelled and marketed as “For boys” or “For girls”, while there were others like me who’d have defied the labels, many others wouldn’t have dared to be seen reading a book marketed at the opposite gender. Nowadays there are more and more books which deliberately exclude one gender from reading. I shouldn’t be surprised, we are after all living in a world where even Pritt Stick has been gendered! So is it at all surprising to see stuff like this..


I genuinely don’t get why these kinds of books even exist.

Going by books like these there is no way girls would ever be interested in cars, dinosaurs or sports. And boys would never be interested in cats, clothes or gardening. Does that really sound reasonable?

I know some people believe that is the case and that boys and girls are biologically programmed to be interested in different things (if anyone can show me a study proving this which doesn’t use children already exposed to societies prejudices I might accept this – but I doubt it), and it’s often those exact people who think these books are totally reasonable. But here’s my problem with that logic, if they are inherently different, then why does it need to say “boys” or “girls”? If both were just labelled the same but with different covers/contents then surely boys and girls would naturally gravitate towards the “correct” books? Making the girls/boys labels a bit redundant.

If you think that girls and boys are mostly interested in the stereotyped hobbies, but there are some children who break the mould, then why would you want to alienate those children by telling them their interests are not correct for their gender? As above, those who like the “correct” hobbies would still want the same books without the labels, but without the labels those who break the mould would feel less unusual and more able to read those books.

If, like me, you think all children can and should be able to have all sorts of hobbies, and not be limited by their genitals. Well then obviously these books are stupid. In which case you might want to sign this petition by Let Toys Be Toys.

What has been interesting has been seeing the reactions to the Let Books Be Books campaign. It seems many people have been wilfully ignoring what the campaign is actually about.

I’ve seen LBBB accused of wanting to ban books with predominantly male characters (eg. The Hobbit) or predominantly female characters (eg. Little Women). Which is so far from the point of the campaign, unless people believe the full titles of these books are The Hobbit for Boys, or Little Women for Girls. Obviously these books are not marketed specifically at either gender, I’ve never seen any copy of either of these books which states they are for one gender only.

I’ve also seen LBBB accused of wanting to ban books with traditionally male/female interests. Again, unless the books are explicitly marketed at boys or girls then they are not the subject of the campaign.

I’ve even seen LBBB accused of wanting to burn books!

But the one that really confuses me is the idea that LBBB wants to somehow restrict children? By removing the “for girls” and “for boys” labels we’d actually be opening up more books to children, we’d be expanding their choices, the total opposite of restricting.

When there are children out there being punished or bullied for having non-traditional interests, do we really want to add to the stigma? Right now a boy reading a “for girls” book or a girl reading a “for boys” book is at risk of bullying. Thinking those labels are reasonable is validating the bullies behaviour.

So what harm could be caused by removing the labels?

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