Stereotype, Stop!

This is a critical thinking game I came up with to get kids to actively notice stereotypes when reading or listening to a story. Having tried it out a few times, I can tell you kids love it! It disrupts the usual passivity of story times as the kids are expected to make noise and interrupt. At the same time though they have to pay close attention.

Before starting the game, you will need to explain what the term stereotype means. Most kids from quite an early age know about stereotypes, but probably not the word. It’s likely they have been told, “colours are for everyone” and “toys are for everyone”. If not you might have to have those discussions first.

But, when you’re ready…

  1. Choose a book, just about any book with people. The more stereotypes the better! I’d suggest choosing a book they don’t already know/love – we don’t always like to problematise our favourite things! I’ve enjoyed choosing classic books from my own childhood that are still in circulation like “Harry the Dirty Dog”, “There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake” or “The Tiger Who Came to Tea”.
  2. Then explain that you are going to read the book and they need to look out for stereotypes in what you say and in the pictures. When they see one, they should interrupt you, put their hand out signalling stop and shout “Stereotype, Stop!” Then they get the opportunity to share with everyone the stereotype they heard or saw. Often a stereotype sighting will initiate conversation: disagreements, questions, references to other experiences the children have had, etc.
  3. Once the conversation concludes, continue on with the story.
  4. At the end you might want to go back and point out any stereotypes you think are interesting, but that the children didn’t notice.

There is no need to limit the stereotypes to gendered ones. Often you will find all the people are white and able-bodied which might also be worth drawing the children’s attention to. If you try this out, please share and let us know how it went.

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