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Building an Anti-Bias Library Part Three – Gender Identity, and Cross-Cultural Folktales

Building an Anti-Bias Library Part Three – Gender Identity, and Cross-Cultural Folktales

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This is part three of a four part series focusing on Gender Identity and Cross-Cultural Folktales. For part one, please click here.  For part two, please click here.

On September 27th, 2017, we welcomed Debbie LeeKeenan, Dr. Caryn Park and Dr. Maggie Beneke to kick off of 2017-2018 Educator Discussion Series focusing on Anti-Bias Education.

Their workshop titled: Using Children’s Literature to Provoke Conversations on Challenging Topics focused on how to use the power of pictures, illustrations, films, and literature to learn about, and rejoice in who we are as a diverse community.  This session also explored how to use children’s literature and read-alouds as a way to provoke and facilitate conversations on potentially challenging topics with young children.

As we head into the summer months, we revisit this session with part three of a four part series to help aid you in building a comprehensive list of Anti-Bias books.  After-all, as literary gatekeepers of our classrooms and homes, it is our duty to cultivate a more inclusive library collection!

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Building an Anti-Bias Library – Gender Identity, and Cross-Cultural Folktales 

When building an inclusive library and deciding on which resources should be a part of it, this workshop recommends that you ask yourself the following questions to ensure that each book you select is an appropriate book for your classroom as part of an anti-bias approach:

  • Timing: When is it appropriate to introduce this book? (developmentally appropriate, right time in the year)
  • Context: What needs to be in place for this book to be effective?
  • Relationships: Does this book connect authentically to you, your children, families or networks?
  • Knowledge/accuracy: What do you know about this issue? What is the source and accuracy of your information? What don’t you know? How can you learn more? (preparation, comfort level)
  • Children’s Knowledge: What do the children know about this topic/issue? What are their questions?
  • Pedagogy: How will you share this book and respond to questions/responses?
  • Continuity: How will you continue the issues raised in this book in the future – to ensure depth and complexity?

The visual and verbal messages young children absorb from books and other media strongly influence their ideas about themselves and others. (For a list of resources on Children’s Identity Formation, click here).  Therefore, carefully choosing children’s books is a vital educational task. Here are the sixth and seventh idea (out of ten) to consider when reviewing children’s books for misinformation and stereotypes.

6. Consider the potential effects on a child’s self and social identities

Will all of the children you serve see themselves and their families’ ways of life reflected in your book collection?

  • Does each book in your library reinforce or counteract messages that teach children to feel inferior or superior because of their skin color, culture, gender, economic class, ability or disability, or type of family structure?
  • Will children of color, girls, children from each type of family structure, and children from low-income families see one or more characters with whom they can readily and positively identify?

7. Consider the author’s or illustrator’s background and perspective

All authors write from a cultural as well as a personal context.  In the past, many children’s books were by authors and illustrators who were White and members of the middle or professional class.  So, a single cultural and class perspective dominated children’s literature.  Today, there are many more books by authors from a range of cultural and personal experiences available.

  • Consider the biographical material on the jacket flap or back of the book.  What qualifies the author or illustrator to deal with that particular subject?
  • If the book is not about people or events similar to the author or illustrator’s background and experiences, what specifically recommends them as creators of this book?
  • What is the author’s attitude toward her or his story characters? Do the images reflect respect and accuracy on the part of the illustrator?
  • Do you have a balance of books by authors and illustrators that reflect a range of identities and experiences?

To help you get started, here are a list of Children’s Books supporting Anti-Bias Education recommended by Debbie LeeKeenan:


Gender Identity: 

Morris Miclewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Baldacchino, C (2014)
King and King by deHaan, L. & Nijland, J. (2003)
Red: A Crayon’s Story by Hall, Michael. Red (2015)
I Am Jazz by Herthel, J & Jennings, J. (2014)
Dance by Jones, B. (1998)
William’s Doll by. Zolotow, Z.  (1972)

Cross-Cultural Folktales:
The Hatseller and the Monkeys by Diakite, B (1999)
The Persian Cinderella by Climo, S (1999)
Cinder-elly by Minters, F. (1994)
The Turkey Girl by Pollock. P (1996)
Petite Rouge: A Cajun Red Riding Hood by Artel, M, (2001)
A Red Riding Hood Story from China by Young, E. Lon Po Po (1989)
Crispin and the Three Pigs by Dewan, T. (2002)
The Three Little Javelinas by Lowell, S. (1992)


A child’s foundation for respecting and valuing difference beyond their own families and communities starts with you!  Please check back for the fourth and final installment of our series where we will recommend children’s books focusing on Family Structures and Holidays and History.

Bring your team to Hilltop or we can come to you!  Hilltop Study Days and Inquiry Days (multi-day visits), are full day visits to Hilltop to see child-centered and reflective practice in action, while exploring proven models for supporting responsive curriculum in your own programs.  These visits to Hilltop (or if you’re out of state / country, we can come to you) will allow educators and leadership staff to discuss practical strategies for planning curriculum that builds directly from the interests and needs of the children and families in your schools.  Join us to discover organizational systems and administrative practices that can bring your own program values to life! For more information please visit either Hilltop Study Days or Inquiry Visits, or email Mike at

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