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Read like a girl: how children’s books of female stories are booming

From The Guardian:

Studies in the past have found that children’s books are dominated by male characters, that history books are overrun by male authors writing about male figures, and that literary fiction is less likely to win a prize if it focuses on a female character.

A new wave of books aimed at children might just be doing its small bit to change that. Thousands of little girls – boys as well, but likely mainly girls – will be settling down for bed this evening with a new kind of bedtime story, one in which the heroines are not fictional, but real. From Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls to Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World, sales of books about inspirational women have boomed this year – and look set to grow.

Kate Pankhurst – a distant relative of the suffragette Emmeline – has sold more than 52,000 copies of her guide to the Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World, according to book sales monitor Nielsen BookScan. Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo, meanwhile, didn’t have high expectations when they launched a Kickstarter last year for Good Night Stories For Rebel Girls, which tells the stories of 100 “extraordinary” women, from Malala Yousafzai to Michelle Obama. They wanted to raise $40,000 (£31,000), and to print 1,000 copies. But their Kickstarter became the most-funded publishing campaign on the site, raising more than $1m. The self-published book has since sold more than 500,000 copies around the world.

. . . .

“I didn’t at all expect it to sell so much,” says Pankhurst of her book. “I didn’t anticipate the interest from parents that was out there, but it’s been really lovely to see people enjoying it. It’s a real discussion point for families – a way in to talking about the stories of these women, and to talking about the broader point of why the book is only about women, if they have been forgotten from history.”

. . . .

Father-and-children’s book blogger Phil May, who runs ReaditDaddy, is one of them. “It feels like the last four years or so have seen a huge rise in inspirational girl books. Certainly in 2016 and 2017 we’ve seen more ‘mighty girl’ titles than any other year,” he says. He attributes their astronomical rise to a number of factors: “Renewed interest in space exploration, for example, means that girls as well as boys … not only want to hear about the women who are working in space science today, but the women who helped contribute to hugely important advances in space exploration. Knowing who people like Helen Sharman and Valentina Tereshkova are is vitally important for girls who are no longer satisfied with being palmed off with rubbish [suggesting] ‘space is for boys, why would girls be interested in that stuff?’”

. . . .

“Books about inspirational women have been a welcome and much needed addition to our bookshelves,” says Waterstones children’s buyer Florentyna Martin, praising Pankhurst’s book, which has remained a bestseller for the chain since it was published last year, as well as Good Night Stories. “It’s important to recognise that these titles are shaping a sustainable area of children’s books and not just ‘bestsellers for the moment’. These books are required, to inspire younger generations for years to come … and the older ones too.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian

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Children's Books, Non-US

8 Comments to “Read like a girl: how children’s books of female stories are booming”

  1. It’s cool there’s someone out there who thinks there’s a renewed interest in space exploration.

    • Well, there is Elon…

      However, I would be willing to bet that when (and if) he ever gets a “person-rated” vehicle, men will be in the majority yet.

      To be clear, there will eventually be a lot of women working in space, if there is anyone. Precise, controlled movement is far more at a premium for most tasks there. But we are still at the “wilderness” stage – for every Sacajawea, there were at least a couple hundred (or more) male explorers, trappers, miners, etc.

      • Oh, I’m just a space nut who worries that space exploration is what is under-represented in popular culture.

        As for gender ratios on the Dragon, if NASA is Elon’s only customer those ratios will likely even out over time.

      • 10% of the Yukon Gold Rushers were women.

        • Note that I was talking about the “wilderness” stage – exploration. (I could insert a question about the professions of the majority of the women in the Yukon rush…)

          Right now, we are at the point where we really don’t know how to do very much in space. Truly, despite enormous progress. Women researchers have been in space, and will continue to do so – but note who does the “heavy work” spacewalking (several have spacewalked, but once again, for tasks where precision has been the priority, not wrench-turning).

          In any case, in the unlikely event that I ever get to visit the Zero G Lounge – I’ll head for the lady bartender; much less likely to be wearing my drink. (I behave myself in bars. Some other customers may be wearing their drinks, but I won’t be…)

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  3. Well, children’s books that the literary establishment liked had more male characters, but the books that girls actually read–and I taught high school English for almost forty years and paid attention to my students’ reading history–were full of female heroines. They were usually series books, and girls went through them like candy: the Sweet Valley books, the Babysitter series, the Anne of Green Gables books, the Nancy Drew mysteries, etc. Series books are wonderful for developing avid readers, and I wished my male students had found books with more appealing male characters, since most had read so little that they had mediocre reading skills, at best.

  4. “… It’s a real discussion point for families – a way in to talking about the stories of these women,” Well, Dad can be a part of the discussion as well, but not until he gets that cake out of the oven. Oh! Here he comes… brushing off his apron, a pretty smile on his face. Uh oh! His man bun came undone. Now he’s prancing off to the bathroom. He’ll probably have to powder his nose as well. Well, you all better start the discussion without him.

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