Waikato Journal of Education


Early childhood education
working theories

How to Cite

Morgan, K., & Surtees, N. (2022). “I can be a girl if I want to”: Supporting or silencing children’s working theories during counter-heteronormative picturebook sessions in early childhood education. Waikato Journal of Education, 27(1), 133–146. https://doi.org/10.15663/wje.v26i1.893


Prevailing heteronormative discourses in early childhood education in Aotearoa New Zealand present difficulties for upholding the right of gender diverse tamariki (children) and lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and queer-parented families to experience belonging in equitable, inclusive early childhood settings. The purposeful use of picturebooks that disrupt these discourses can go some way towards mitigating against exclusion. This article draws on the findings of a small-scale qualitative research project that explored early childhood teachers’ use of picturebooks that included gender diverse children and lesbian- and gay-parented family content. In highlighting teacher support for or silencing of children’s working theories about possibilities for gender change and two mother or two father parents during the picturebook sessions, the article makes a case for expanding the curriculum beyond the limits of heteronormativity. Some practice recommendations for facilitating picturebook sessions are offered to this end. Importantly, teacher preparedness to manage discomfort arising through discussion of topics perceived to be dangerous or risky during such sessions is critical.


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