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Books

Campaign seeks to remove ‘for boys’ and ‘for girls’ from books

‘The Dangerous Book for Boys’
A campaign in the U.K. seeks to remove the designations “for boys” and “for girls” from books.
(HarperCollins)

A campaign in the United Kingdom that seeks to pressure publishers to stop titling and labeling children’s books as being “for boys” or “for girls” is quickly gaining momentum, with leading writers and at least one newspaper expressing support.

“We’re asking children’s publishers to take the ‘Boys’ and ‘Girls’ labels off books and allow children to choose freely what kinds of stories and activity books interest them,” says the statement by the Let Books Be Books campaign. Such labels, the organizers of the campaign say, “send out very limiting messages to children about what kinds of things are appropriate for girls or for boys.”

On Sunday, the campaign got an important boost when the newspaper the Independent announced it would no longer review such books, or even blog about them.

“What we are doing by pigeon-holing children is badly letting them down. And books, above all things, should be available to any child who is interested in them,” wrote editor Katy Guest. “Happily, as the literary editor of The Independent on Sunday, there is something that I can do about this. So I promise now that the newspaper and this website will not be reviewing any book which is explicitly aimed at just girls, or just boys. Nor will The Independent’s books section.” 

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The Guardian reports that one of Britain’s biggest bookstore chains, Waterstones, as well as U.K. “Children’s Laureate” Malorie Blackman, and U.K. Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy have also announced their support. “The campaign is attacking titles such as Usborne’s Illustrated Classics for Boys, described by the publisher as ‘a collection of stories of action, adventure and daring-do suitable for boys,’” while its Illustrated Stories for Girls contains ‘brand new stories about mermaids, fairies, princesses and dolls,’” the Guardian wrote.

But such a campaign would also affect many popular and beloved books, such as the bestselling “The Dangerous Book for Boys.” And it’s clear not everyone thinks eliminating “for boys” and “for girls” from book titles is such a good idea. And many of the Independent’s readers are decrying the newspaper’s announcement that it is banning reviews of such books.

“This is just stupidity,” wrote one reader on the Independent’s website. “The Independent was analogous to an intelligent publication in my mind since I was a very young boy. So sad to see that change.”

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hector.tobar@latimes.com


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