Saturday, 1 July 2017

Can girls be astronauts?

Can girls be astronauts?

An interesting question.  According to primary children in some North East schools, the answer is a clear 'no'.

Of course, the answer is 'yes'.  As shown by Sam Cristoferetti, Peggy Whitson, and the five women in the astronaut class of 2017.

However, if children's story books are to be believed the answer is 'no', unless you're a non-human animal!  Having searched books shops and online catalogues, the only female protagonists in picture books are a cow, a hippopotamus, or Little Miss Wise!

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Dave the cow falls to Earth.
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Shelia and Hercules, the first hippopotami on the moon.
If these are the only faces that little children see going into space, it's no wonder that they don't think women can be astronauts.

For a pre-school project NUSTEM is planning, we will be using storybooks about space as stimulus materials for family workshops.

One book that we'll probably use is the Tim Peake inspired book 'Goodnight, Spaceman'.  This is a book inspired by Tim and his two children - both boys.  However, in the book, the two children look fairly generic, so we think that one child could be a girl!
The only bedtime CBeebies story read from Space
For balance, we were looking for a storybook which has a named human girl as a protagonist.  Alas, we looked in vain. 

A selection of space themed story books with no named human female in them.

Activist Marian Wright Edelman is purported to have said "You can't be what you can't see".  

If children only see, and read, about boys and men in space, then that's what will seem normal.  

We're now thinking that we need to write our own storybooks!


On the plus side, the Usborne Astronauts sticker book has a really diverse range of people in it, so well done them!
Sticker Astronauts - Paperback - 9781409582243 - Struan Reid

A number of people suggested other books to me that contain female protagonists.

Madeleine goes to the moon is a story about a little girl imagining a journey to the moon using the contents of her bedroom.
Madeleine on the moon - with aliens and dolls.
We also really liked The Girl who could Dance on the Moon.  This tells the story of Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to travel in space.  Mae is a polymath and the book tells how she kept her interest in arts and sciences as she grew up and trained to become, first a doctor, and then an astronaut.

Dancing in space.

Finally, we were sent a link to Serena sess her footprints on the moon, but we haven't managed to get a copy yet because it seem only to be available in the US.

Sadly, only available in the US at the moment