Gender in Children’s and Youth Literature

Apart from children’s books’ being classified according to age, they are sometimes categorized as girls’ and boys’ books. Not only is the publication and marketing of children’s books related to reader’s gender, but also to an assumption that some genres are more relevant for girls or boys. Girls read more than boys; moreover, there is an implicit notion that girls are more interested in books that focus on social issues within the framework of general literature. On the other hand, boys have a tendency to read adventure books, and a belief that they are also much more interested in comic books, movies, and video games, as a compared to girls. The idea of gender itself is ingrained in childhood, and the stories children read, or the movies they watch play a huge role in making children accept a gender role that society has already delineated. To produce books for a specific sex/gender identity, is highly questionable therefore it seems that the content of contemporary writing for children needs to be analysed. In order to develop debate on how children’s literature creates traditional gender roles in society, one needs to look at the stereotypical behaviours of male and female characters. On one hand, we want to make an assessment of how recent works for children frame gender, and on the other to suggest how children’s literature can become emancipatory for children and young people.

We want to ask questions such as; “If girls and boys grow up in the same way, have their reading choices changed?”, “How do children’s books advertise possible differences in gender roles across generations? Can we say that there has been any improvement in the expected roles for women in children’s books?”, “How are step-parents represented in children’s books?”, “What are the reasons for the lack of LGBTI characters in children’s literature?” , “Is this just the result of religious or political pressure?”, “Should children’s books discuss sex education?” “Do we see single parents, gay parents or custodial parents characters in children’s books enough?”, “How are issues of sexual abuse and incest expressed in the genre or have we developed ‘literature of happiness’?”, “How do young readers react to this?”, “Why are almost all the classic characters in children’s books who are struggling against life male? (Pinocchio, Nobody’s Boy: Remi, Treasure Island, Tom Sawyer, Oliver Twist, Harry Potter etc.) Is the character of Pippi Longstocking successful because she was one of the first female book characters to offer an alternative to traditional stereotypical roles?”

Moderator: Zarife Biliz; Speakers: Fatih Erdoğan, Melek Özlem Sezer, Sassa Buregren, Süleyman Bulut
MSFAU Bomonti Conference Hall