BOYS AND GIRLS: Taking gender out of books could create a blank space for kids looking for characters they can identify with through looks or circumstance.
BOYS AND GIRLS: Taking gender out of books could create a blank space for kids looking for characters they can identify with through looks or circumstance. iStock

Sexes now battling to exist

DID you hear the joke about the plan to ban references to boys and girls from books in libraries and schools?

Sadly, it's no joke - it's a serious suggestion by two Victorian councils. I can't imagine a world where Thomas doesn't have his trains and Miss Polly doesn't have a dolly.

My grandchildren are boy/girl twins and while they are definitely twice the fun, and occasionally double trouble, they are also proving to be a riveting social science project.

They are nearly two and their personalities are emerging through their play, language and everyday behaviours. They are already aware they are different physically - shared baths make sure of that - but we all see how different they are in so many other ways.

Their experiences have been about as similar as you can get but there's no doubt he's a boy's boy and she's a girl's girl. She loves to cuddle and "shhhh” her trio of dolls while her brother prefers to ride the trike, even turning it over to figure out how the wheels turn.

They have the same parents, the same toys and books and exactly the same opportunities to play and experiment. Sure, he will also cuddle up to a teddy but not as often as he will climb on the trike. She also likes to ride her bike and is generally braver but she doesn't do it with the same gusto.

I used to be a daycare mum and it always intrigued me that children from a single-gender home gravitated to the "opposite” toys at my place but would hide them when their parents arrived. I believe kids should be free to decide what interests them and parents should step back from any restrictive beliefs.

Taking gender out of books won't stop some children having tea parties and others turning sticks into swords, but it could create a massive blank space for all those kids looking for characters they can identify with through looks or circumstance.

A better option would be to encourage kids to read even more books so they "meet” boys and girls of all shapes, sizes and cultures. Let them find people just like them, but also see that differences can be good whether it is gender, hair colour, skin colour or how they live.

As grandparents, we can help by gifting our grandies books at every opportunity.

It's such a beautiful way to fill their minds with wonderful, daring stories that fuel their imaginations and inspire them to make the world a better place. And we should read along with them, after all we could all do with a brief escape from this crazy world.