A young boy is smiling in front of a group of books, challenging gender norms.

Challenging Gender Norms


Subject: Citizenship and PHSE

Topic: Diverse Representation

Age Group: KS1, 5-7 years old

Synopsis: Enjoy story time with these brilliant picture books that also challenge the gender norms, as picked by Laura Bennett from Tower Hamlets SLS   

Laura Bennett
Tower Hamlets SLS

Librarian’s view:

With diversity the new laser focus in schools up and down the country, it’s not a surprise that people are starting to question the unconscious gender bias that can be found in texts. Why are boys usually the main character in the adventure stories? Where are all the picture books featuring boy fairies?

Happily, books that challenge the norms we’ve become accustomed to not only exist but are absolutely marvellous reads. What I especially love about the titles I’ve picked for you below is that while some books aim to promote gender equality but forget there needs to be a plot, these books start with the story and the gender equality is just the cherry on top. It’s natural, it’s seamless, it doesn’t feel like a lesson, and it makes for far better and more interesting reading come story time.


The Sea Tiger
by Victoria Turnbull

Oscar the merboy has a sea tiger as his best friend, but sadly he is his only friend. That is until the sea tiger makes it his mission to find Oscar a new friend to hang out with!

Izzy Gizmo
by Pip Jones

I adore this story of perseverance, as Izzy Gizmo totes around her impressive tool bag and filches bits and bobs from various neighbours’ household appliances to make a new pair of wings for a poorly crow.

Julian is a Mermaid
by Jessica Love

Such personality in so few words! When Julian catches sight of three ladies dressed for carnival he longs to dress up like these beautiful mermaids too. Luckily, his gran is busy with her bath and Julian has his eye on a pair of curtains…

Clive is a Nurse
by Jessica Spanyol

It’s a toss-up between this being my favourite or Clive and his Babies, when he’s clearly having fun pushing his dolls about in the pram. Clive’s various adventures are all about role play and as such these board books are great for the library’s youngest readers. Look out for his friend Rosa who likes to play with dinosaurs.

Ada Twist
by Andrea Beaty

Ada just can’t help herself – she loves science. Luckily, she has an enthusiastic class of helpers to help her test her theories and answer questions, and save her from scribbling equations all over the walls at home.

Princess Grace
by Mary Hoffman

I especially like this one because even though it is about a girl who wants to dress as a princess (actually, quite a few girls who want to be princesses) Grace discovers that actually some princesses are less fairy-delicate and more amazing-hero, and that it’s OK to like both. Some of her schoolmates realise that actually it can be pretty cool to play the prince too, and there are princes and princesses from all around the world.