Sometimes a book comes along that makes me jump out of my seat and do a happy dance. It makes me thankful and thoughtful and incredibly grateful that there are people out there who care enough to produce books like it. Finding books like this makes the hours that I put into this blog entirely worthwhile. It makes me proud.
Today is one of those days and What Are You Playing At? is one of those books.
This is a book that demands your attention. It is Important. It is clever and, like all the best books, it is brilliantly simple. What Are You Playing At? takes commonly used phrases that restrict children’s play with gender stereotyping, and flips them.
From the very first image you see on the front cover you are being shown children playing. That is it. That is the focus. Look at the front cover image. Look at the angle of that shot and the way it has been centred. The focus is very much on their smiling happy faces. Initially we don’t even notice that the boy has a doll and the girl has a plane. And that is perfect! Because children don’t notice those things and they shouldn’t notice. They should be blissfully unaware of society’s gendering of toys, they should just see toys. And smiles. And children having fun playing together. Unfortunately gender marketing is such a massive part of children’s lives and their constant bombardment with heavily gendered images means that they are aware of gender stereotyping from an early age. But it doesn’t fool them. They know that toys are toys and books like this can work magic and reinforce children’s ability to laugh in the face of gender stereotyping.
When they open up the book and start looking through the pictures, children will be able to discuss the roles that they see and laugh at the stereotyped comments. They will be able to share this book and use it to inspire their play. Children’s play is their way of learning about life and exploring their futures. Limiting their play limits their futures. What Are You Playing At? shows children that there is no need to listen to society’s gender stereotyping, no reason to limit their own play, there is nothing that they cannot do in their futures. How powerful this book could be. How inspiring and empowering. It could open up a world of discussion and exploration and imagination. Imagine if every nursery and reception class had this book in their role play areas!
A book that belongs in every library, nursery and school, I can’t tell you how happy What Are You Playing At? makes me. It gives me hope. Currently book of the month at Inclusive Minds and book of the week at Letterbox Library, you can buy a copy at a specially reduced price here. Actually… buy two – your local school or library NEEDS this!
Hurrah to Alanna Books for publishing such a wonderful book. Alanna Books is a very small independent publisher, only founded in 2006, but already well-known for producing brilliant naturally inclusive books for children (see my review of their Lulu books here). I am very proud to be able to support them and very excited to see what they create next.
Source: Kindly sent for review by Alanna Books.