UncategorizedThe truth behind gender stereotypes in early childhood picture drawings
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  • The truth behind gender stereotypes in early childhood picture drawings

    Inspiration to write about topics relevant to our blog is found anywhere and everywhere even though there are topics that we wish we didn’t have to state the obvious (common sense is not so common anymore).

    Recently, we witnessed a child from our surrounding environment in Cyprus, coloring (with colour pencils) a series of drawings they were handed by the teacher at their kindergarten. Nothing wrong with this so far, right? Well, the drawings depicted a dog running into a mud, and a little girl bathing it and cleaning it. When I asked the child if he believed that a boy should also be in the above drawing with the girl, he said no and while discussing this the child said ‘this was what we were given by the teacher at the kindergarten’. Before thinking of arguing this, clearly we want all kids to be nurturing towards their pets. The point is that not only girls should be /are expected to be caring and nurturing.  

    How are we supposed to expect from boys (future men) to undertake domestic tasks and responsibilities when what they see growing up is girls and women portrayed in domestic tasks, from cooking and washing to solely caring for their pets, the children and elderly. We simply cannot picture this. Can you? Are textbooks and literature any different?

    The classroom materials and literature teachers select to share with young children refect the beliefs and values a society has about identity, ethnicity and gender equity.

    Picture books are a means of presenting a child with a world outside his/her own immediate environment, a look at societal values and what other boys and girls do, say and feel” [1]. 

    Research over many years is clear about the negative impact of sexism and gender stereotypes on children’s development; it limits potential growth and development, impacts self-esteem and shapes interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships [2]. 

    Furthermore, gender bias in picture books and gendered instructional materials strengthens children’s biases. 

    A handbook published by the Mediterranean Institute of Gender Studies in Cyprus, can be of great use to kindergarten teachers. It is a toolbox of intervention methods for primary education, with theoretical and practical tools to address gender stereotypes and gender inequality since kindergarten and primary school onward. It is mainly addressed to those who work with children, kindergarten teachers, teachers, trainers, management and support staff.

    [1] La Dow, 1976, p. 2)

    [2] Estola, E. (2011). Discussing gender. In T. Jacobson (Ed.), Perspectives on gender in early childhood (pp. 39–58). Redleaf.

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