I’m curious to find out how parents/carers/general people choose which books to buy for children. Part of Let Books be Books includes asking retailers to take down signs ‘For Boys’ and ‘For Girls’ to avoid limiting the audience for a particular book. However, bookshop displays can provide so much visual stimuli as to be somewhat overwhelming, so do gender divisions ever help to narrow down the vast choice? Can it ever be useful for, say a grandparent or relative, buying a book for a young toddler to have gender divisions in a bookshop?
Also, gender labelling can be more subtle than the title (although there is nothing subtle about these!)
Book covers which are pink and sparkly indicate the book is aimed at a certain audience, whereas blue trucks suggest the opposite. Some discussions suggest that heavily gendered covers are repelling adult buyers, but can help children to make a decision – but as Helen Mitchell (2000) points out:
‘Of course, the choices stated by children may not necessarily be their preferences; there is always the issue of stated choices being influenced by what the child thought they should be seen to be choosing to please teachers, parents and researchers’
So what should bookshops/retailers be doing to help shoppers choose children’s books? And what about book covers?
This article shows Maureen Johnson’s view on gendered covers on fiction books – the coverflip is worth a look to illustrate her point about the cover of books colouring our opinion of the contents.