Tuesday, November 10, 2015

More than Just a Story 

I grew up watching She-Ra so when it came out on DVD, I bought the set and my son loved watching it – up until a friend came over and told him “This is for girls” just because the main character is female. 

We know our children are confronted with this on a daily basis – “you can’t do this, like this, be this…because you are a boy/girl”. I can’t control what other people tell my child and the impact their words have on him but I can at least provide him with an environment at home where he knows that he can be himself. It is an open environment for experimentation and discovery where my child can choose the toy, hobby, book or colour that best represent him, regardless of the gender, race or cultural background of the characters in his books or movies.

Books and movies allow children to peek into each other’s worlds and also to find an affirming reflection of themselves. Boys need to see girls play sports. Girls need to see other girls play sports. White children need to see black and Asian children as princesses and football players. Children shouldn’t only see images of Arab boys in the context of conflict or African children in the context of poverty. 

I want my boys to see images of comfort, their world reflected in pictures but also images of inspiration and imagination. Essentially, these are not just words and pictures on a page; they tell our children who they are and who they can become. 

Amazing Grace
One of the books on my son’s bookshelf is Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman. It is about a girl named Grace who loves stories. Her favourite thing to do is to act out any story that she comes across. She's been Joan of Arc, Hiawatha, a pirate, and Mowgli to name a few. 

One day her teacher informs her class that they will be performing a play about Peter Pan. Grace was so excited! She wants to be Peter Pan! However, some of her peers tell her that she can't be Peter because she doesn't look like Peter. But, she didn't look like Mowgli, Hiawatha, or Joan of Arc either. How can her classmates say this to her? How does this make Grace feel? Does she get to play Peter? 

Distraught by her classmates reactions, Grace returns home and tells her mother and grandmother about what happened. With a little encouragement from her family and inspiration from an actress who plays characters that don't look like her, Grace overcomes the doubts of her peers and fulfils her desire to play Peter.

I use Amazing Grace to pass on a few important messages that I hope my son will pick up on, including:

*Let’s follow our dreams, regardless of what people tell us
*Let’s remember that we are all capable of doing amazing things regardless of our gender, race, culture, etc
*Let’s stand out as individuals in spite of criticism. In other words, let’s remain true to ourselves even when we are teased for being different

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