What comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘ninja’?
These are phrases and words from my students - black masked figures, acrobatic moves, Katana steel blade, ninja stars…the list goes on. During the medieval times, martial arts was ruled and dominated by men. These sports have the reputation of showcasing traits of masculinity e.g. strength, aggression, toughness. I am so glad that Leila Boukarim and Barbara Moxham have created such a lovely book that teaches young children about breaking gender stereotypes. It all started when Kareem and Wei spotted a ninja side-kicking, backflipping, somersaulting at the park. They were so impressed by the movements that they started to practice to move their bodies following the Ninja movements. But when the ninja did a perfect arabesque, the boys were intrigued and were taken aback that the Ninja was a girl.
We are witnessing true activism of race and gender right now and this simple and yet powerful story is an invitation for all of us to commit in identifying gender bias that still exist around us. In other words, teachers and parents play an important role in creating such awareness. Why create this awareness in young children? Being an early childhood educator for two decades, my experience has taught me that young children learn about the world and they wonder. It will not take them long to learn that race and gender matter. They make observations and form judgements based on things they can see. They learn very quickly about aspects valued by society, especially race and gender. Adults incidentally tend to and label activities as either “boy” or “girl” over and over again throughout the day.
On a positive note, we are living in the 21st century and I would like to celebrate the bravery of many educators, parents and authors for persistently trying to highlight the realities of gender bias and rigid gender roles among young people. If you are a parent, guardian or an educator who identifies himself/herself as someone who challenges gender stereotypes, get this book and read it to your child.