Like many other writers, my child inspired my first picture book. I have a six year old daughter who has never been interested in “girl” toys. At preschool when the girls would play house or princess, my child would appoint herself the chef. She’s loved superheroes since she was little, identifying with their strength and problem solving abilities. We had to call her Peter Parker, then Steve Rogers, and now Robin in order for her to answer.
In our family, we believe in encouraging our daughter to play what she wants and be who she is. I think that’s why it was both hurtful and infuriating to watch her ask a boy if she could play with his action figures and hear him respond, “No. These are only for boys!”
And then a few weeks later it happened again.
Of course, we explained that she can play with action figures and that they are for everyone. I went out to the store and bought her quite a few action figures to prove the point. However, those moments stayed with me and occupied my thoughts.
I wasn’t just angry that my daughter was already feeling the limitations of sexism at the age of 2. I also felt sad for the boys. They missed out on getting to play with a really fun, awesome kid. And, they’ll probably miss out of many more great experiences and social encounters because they’ve already had their worldview limited by the adults in their lives.
So, I wrote a story about a child who loves to do all of the things my child loves to do. I wanted this child to be completely free to play and be who they wanted, so I decided the child’s gender would be unknown.
Then I challenged the adults who teach kids from the time they are toddlers that girls do/like these things and boys do/like these things. In my experience with young children, they are curious, intelligent beings who like to experiment with and try different games. Their cognitive and physical development demand it.
The short answer is that I wrote Jamie is Jamie for my daughter. But this book is really my deepest desire for all kids – that they get to play every day without anyone putting limits on who they are, what they can play, or who they can play with.
©Afsaneh Moradian 2019
One more thing…
Through color-coding in stores, kids “learn” which toys are “supposed” to be for girls or boy. Pink and yellow toys are considered “girly” and anything blue or dark green is obviously for boys, right? What about the toys themselves? Can boys play with dolls and girls play with trucks?
Of course, they can! And that’s the open-minded thinking that is captured in my children’s picture book, Jamie is Jamie.
I wrote Jamie is Jamie for my daughter who’d been told that only boys can play a superhero. My daughter and every other child deserve a book that gives them permission to be free to play and explore their own way-not the way everyone “thinks they should.”
I created my book to challenge gender stereotypes and encourages children to make play choices based on their interests. And because playing is fundamental to learning, I’ve created a special section in Jamie is Jamie for teachers, parents, and caregivers where they can find tips on how to make kids’ playtime learning time.
Afsaneh has been teaching for over 15 years from preschool to graduate school, and is often invited to give teacher training workshops and speak at educational conferences. Her vast experience in working with different ages, academic levels, and cultures has given her the ability to work with anyone and help them achieve their learning goals. She is also the author of Jamie is Jamie.