Blog Tour, Book Review, Picture Books

Princesses Break Free by Timothy Knapman & Jenny Lovlie ~ Blog Tour & Guest Post

It’s The Paper Bag Princess for the next generation. Join Princess Tilly as she stands up for herself and encourages girls to be just as strong as boys – if not stronger. Challenging gender stereotypes and helping all children to see themselves in stories, Princesses Break Free is a brilliant new picture book by Timothy Knapman & Jenny Lovlie.

I’m thrilled to share a guest post from author Timothy Knapman about reinforcing positive representation for young children.

5 ways to reinforce positive representation

My latest book, Princesses Break Free tells the story of Princess Tilly, who is carried off one day by a dragon – so far, so traditional.  But Tilly is far from a traditional princess. She doesn’t want to wait until a handsome prince comes to her rescue – that’s BORING. Instead she rescues herself (with a parachute made from knickers, naturally) and in so doing encourages every other princess in fairy tale land to take their destinies into their own hands and go out and do what they want, not what’s expected of them. 

From early childhood, children follow a well-trodden path where boys are exposed to blue, dinosaurs, vehicles and space, while girls are directed towards pink, princesses, fairies, unicorns, and ponies. Picture books are often the first lens young kids have on the world around them. When The Observer studied the top 100 selling children’s picture books in 2018, they found that male characters are twice as likely to be the main protagonists and the overall number of female characters was far smaller, with three male characters present in each story for every two females. What’s more, when they analysed non-human characters, such as animals and vegetables, a staggering 73% of these characters were given a male gender pronoun!

One of the main reasons for writing Princesses Break Free, was to let my young readers know that if they ever find themselves limited by the imaginative worlds handed down to them, they can always bend and twist and reconstruct those worlds into something that suits them better.

Gender equality can seem like a complicated issue to discuss with very young children but research has revealed that by the age of 3, kids have begun to associate certain roles and behaviours to gender. Introducing the subject early can help them understand what they start to see outside the home. Here are my tips to reinforce positive representation and get kids to question gender stereotypes:

1) Discover and read books that challenge stereotypes

Whether it’s a princess who breaks the rules like Tilly or a book like Ada Twist, Scientist, featuring a curious girl with big ambitions, introducing different kinds of stories will help teach your kids that they don’t always have to follow the norm.

2) Let your kids choose their own toys

Boys play with dinosaurs and girls like unicorns. This type of gendered statement is all too familiar. Unfortunately, it’s statements like this that shape kids’ perception of themselves. Keep toys gender neutral – your kids will soon make up their own minds about their likes and dislikes.

3) Encourage access to all activities

In the same way that toys are often given to children according to gender stereotypes, boys and girls can be directed to different kinds of play – for example, girls are encouraged towards creative pursuits while boys are given permission to play fighting games or enjoy outdoor activities.

4) Share examples of positive role models

Has your child ever come home from pre-school or school to say ballet isn’t for boys or football isn’t for girls? It’s hard to stop those outside influences but by shining a light on the positive achievements of both women and men who have chosen a different path, kids will learn that they don’t have to accept those traditional constructs.

5) Teach them empathy

This one is so important. Teasing and bullying start at a very early age. If kids learn how their actions hurt others AND can empathise with their peers, the world will be a little more kind. And, again, picture books can help: following someone else’s story, and coming to share their feelings and understand their point of view, is what reading is all about.

There are many more ways to encourage the conversation and reinforce positive representation, these are just some thought-starters. I’d love to hear yours!

Princesses Break Free has been published by Walker Books.

Click on the covers below to find out more or purchase on-line from bookshop.org Amazon.

Books by Kate Heap:

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Available to pre-order:

Nonfiction: Years 3/4

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