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Purses for Girls and Cars for Boys: Let Colouring Books Be Colouring Books

04/05/2015 22:01 BST | Updated 04/05/2016 10:12 BST

I bet you didn't know that only boys want to draw robots and dinosaurs while girls ought to stick to perfume bottles, handbags, and flowers.

But according to two colouring books offered by Buster Books - "The Boys' Colouring Book" and "The Girls' Colouring Book" - that seems to be the case. I was in the books section of a department store here in Norwich when I found these works prominently displayed (along with "The Beautiful Colouring Book", which was in a vibrant pink and contained many similar pictures to the "The Girls' Colouring Book" - no prizes for guessing which gender is supposed to enjoy this "beautiful" book). These books very blatantly suggest what girls and boys respectively ought to be interested in.

I find it shocking and dispiriting that in 2015 we still see these outdated gender stereotypes propagated. Unfortunately, it's clear that campaigns such as Let Toys Be Toys and Let Books Be Books still have far to go.

I am the parent of a young daughter and I am certain that she'll have interests beyond her appearance. As such, I wouldn't buy her a book with pictures of perfume bottles, cupcakes, and handbags to colour in. I find that limiting.

The book for boys is somewhat less limiting - it has more of an outward focus and is less superficial - but I wouldn't buy it because it sends the message that animals and cars are for boys only. That's not something I want to teach boys or girls.

I don't understand why there can't simply be colouring books for all children that contain a range of items. Children themselves don't decide to only be interested in, say, space or desserts based on their sex; it's adults who, implicitly or explicitly, tell children what is appropriate for them.

It's upsetting and unsettling to think that in 2015, such stereotyped books are what is offered to young children. We must consider what messages we are sending both to children and their parents about what boys and girls are and what they might be as they grow up.

I plan to buy my daughter colouring books that feature spaceships, trains, cakes, and plants, and anything else she might like to colour. It's time to let colouring books be colouring books, not yet another gender-specific item that constrains the next generation.