A series of drawings depicting a dog challenging gender stereotypes by wearing a pink dress in picture books.

Challenging Gender Stereotypes Through Picture Books

SLS UKPicture Books

Subject: Citizenship and PHSE

Age Group: EYFS and KS1

Focus: Gender Stereotypes

Synopsis: When children are born, they are unaware of gendered expectations and attitudes. However, by the end of KS1, children have developed a clear sense of what is expected of boys and girls and how they are supposed to behave. Early years education is therefore central in promoting gender equality with picture books being an essential resource in addressing and challenging gender stereotypes. 

Janet Noble
Tower Hamlets SLS

Librarian’s view:

Gender stereotyping is the practice of ascribing to an individual woman or man specific attributes, characteristics, or roles solely because of their membership in the social group of women or men. Gender stereotypes limit children’s potential by prescribing acceptable and unacceptable behaviour to girls and boys. Gender stereotypes can be harmful insofar as they negatively restrict how children and indeed adults see themselves and others.

Cusack, S. (2013) Gender Stereotyping as a Human Rights Violation: Research Report. Prepared for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Women/WRGS/2013-GenderStereotyping-as-HR-Violation.docx

Challenging Gender Stereotypes Through Picture Books

Gender stereotypes restrict opportunities, constrain choices, and can lead to the following unequal gender outcomes:


  • Play is crucial to young children’s development, but because play with ‘masculine toys’ allow children to develop skills that ‘feminine toys’ do not, and vice versa, stereotypes may restrict development.

The Gender Pay Gap

  • Occupational and subject segregation is one of the key contributing factors to the gender pay gap, including through differential school subject choices.

The ‘Gender Gap’ in Achievement

  • Boys’ underperformance in education can be improved by challenging notions of gender


  • Gender stereotypes are not only limiting but can be harmful and impact significantly on children’s self-esteem.

Violence Against Women and Girls

  • Research has shown that holding rigid gender stereotyped beliefs means that young men and boys are more likely to perpetrate partner violence.

Stories and storytelling can be a catalyst for exploring inclusive images and storylines about gender and is an excellent way to raise this issue with young school children.


What are you playing at?
by Marie-Sabine Roger

Boys don’t play with dollies – that would be silly!

Girls can’t play football – that would be ridiculous!

Boys don’t play skipping – that would be absurd!

A simple but clever book that undermines entrenched gendered norms with adult role modelling and invites children to see their grown up selves in different and diverse ways.

Look Up!
by Nathan Byron

Rocket wants to be the greatest astronaut, star-catcher and space-traveller who has ever lived, just like Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space.

Sprinkled with facts about meteors and space, this charming picture book is also a lovely representation of family, sibling relationships and one girl’s infectious enthusiasm.

Billy’s Bravery
by Tom Percival

Billy absolutely LOVES Nature Girl. She is his favourite superhero EVER! He has even got his own Nature Girl costume to wear on World Book Day.

But what if Billy looks silly? What if his friends make fun of him?

A lovely, gentle story about being true to yourself, being brave and not worrying about what other people might think.

A Dress with Pockets
by Lily Murray

Lucy and Aunt Augusta are dress shopping. But Lucy doesn’t care about frills or lace. She wants a dress WITH POCKETS. And as she wades through all kinds of fancy dresses, she starts to worry about where she’s going to put her leaves, and nettles, and delicate petals, her magical spells and beautiful shells. . .

A light-hearted story that celebrates the wonders of nature and the importance of clothes that enable you to explore.

Dogs Don’t Do Ballet
by Anna Kemp

Dogs Don’t Do Ballet tells the story of Biff, a dog determined to follow his dream of becoming a ballerina, even though everyone he meets is convinced that dogs don’t do ballet.

This book provides a superb stimulus for conversations with young children about expectations of people and how expectations can impact someone’s emotions and self-esteem.

Pearl Power
by Mel Elliott

Pearl Power is a feisty five-year-old who believes very strongly in girl and boy equality. Follow Pear’s adventures as she moves house and changes school whilst remaining clever, strong, and kind.

 Upon meeting one boy who seems to think that boys are better than girls, she teaches him a lesson in girl power, as well as in kindness.

Clive and His Art
by Jessica Spanyol

Meet Clive – and his imagination! Clive loves all kinds of art. He likes looking at it, making it and sharing it with his friends.

This story, part of the All About Clive series, offers lots of inspiration for art activities and Moshi the cat brings bags of humour. As always, Clive’s crew is racially inclusive and uninhibited by gender stereotypes.

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