PARENTS

Do Kids' Books Give Dads A Bad Name?

09/06/2009 16:46 | Updated 22 May 2015

These days, fathers are expected to play more of a hands on role than any other generation before. The stereotype of the dad who only parents via the odd game of football in the park is long gone. Dads today are expected to be involved from the get-go: changing the most putrid nappies, getting up in the night for feeds and all the rest of it, even the dull bits.

So since dads are doing so much better, why then are all the dads in children's books so dreadful, asks journalist and dad of one Damon Syson?

Take Richard Scarry's "Cars and Trucks and Things That Go," says Syson in an article at the Times Online: "He [Pa Pig] falls asleep, having promised to drive. He fails to change a flat tire, leaving his wife to do it. He gets sunburnt, despite her warnings. It's an image of the lazy, feckless, unreliable paterfamilias echoed in various TV sitcoms. He is practically a porcine Homer Simpson."

In fact, Syson says that in his own collection of over 100 picture books, fathers appeared in only nine. And just five of those portrayed them in a positive light. "When they do appear," says Syson of fictional fathers, "They are often withdrawn and ineffectual. In spite of today's shifting parenting roles, books aimed at pre-school children still tend to depict the mother as the sole or primary care provider. Fathers are absent, silly or just plain busy."

The experts quoted list various reasons why dads might not feature in children's books:

1) Though dad-friendly topics are more popular than ever, domestic books are not.

2) Dads might read books to their kids, but it's still the mums who are buying them.

3) Older books, such as Syson's Scarry books, reflect a snapshot of society. When "Cars and Trucks" was written, publishers were being careful to depict women in traditionally male roles.

However, I wonder whether Syson just needs to expand his reading list. Check out these books that feature positive male role models:

He may be a good Dad, but he still needs the kids' help when it comes to fixing the car.

  • The Father Who Had 10 Children

  • The ultimate single dad

    And in many children's books, parents don't even feature at all - it's an entirely child-centred or even animal-centred world. So your child may still be getting good male role models, it's just that they may be dressed up as a fox or a dinosaur.

    What about your child's book collection -- do you see a problem with how dads are portrayed? Tell us what you think below

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