Waikato Journal of Education
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Keywords

Gender
early childhood
picturebooks
innocence

Abstract

This article shares conversational research (Thomson et al., 2012) that we undertook with parents in one of children’s primary education settings: the home. We investigated the question: what are the comfort levels of families, with young children, as they encounter picturebooks featuring diverse gender and sexual identities? Over the past 10 years in Canada, including New Brunswick, these picturebooks have increased in production (Bouchey, 2021; Miller Oke, 2019) complexity (Sullivan & Urraro, 2017) and circulation. Yet some educators in the early years of school remain uncomfortable reading these texts with young children, their concerns, in part, related to imagined backlash from heteronormative families (Goldstein 2021) and deeply entrenched constructs of childhood innocence (Kintner-Duffy et al., 2012; Martino & Cumming-Potvin, 2011, 2016; Robinson, 2013). Scholarship and our research confirm that most children know and can communicate their sex and gender identities by two years of age (Pastel et al, 2019; Stevenson, 2019) and are able to engage critically with picturebooks featuring diverse gender and sexual identities as they get older. Through our conversations with mothers, we learned that all families were comfortable with each picturebook category presented: gender expression, gender identity, gender harassment, and family composition. Interpreting our conversations through Queer Theory (Butler, 1990, 1993), we also learned how particular picturebooks serve as entry points to family discussions about diverse gender and sexual identities and how important access to diverse picturebooks is to provide these opportunities. Specifically, each of the nine mothers shared picturebooks that supported their child/children/families with being and knowing related to gender variance, who you can love, and/ or what games, hobbies and clothes are acceptable.

https://doi.org/10.15663/wje.v26i1.912
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