Now ‘sensitivity readers’ have turned the spotlight on Ladybird’s fairytales
ONCe upon a time... the handsome prince rescued the beautiful princess and they lived happily ever after.
But in 2023, he could be an averagelooking bisexual commoner – and they certainly won’t live happily ever if he forgets to ask which pronouns she prefers before slaying the dragon.
Ladybird Books has used sensitivity readers to re- examine some of its children’s fairytales to check their inclusivity, according to The Sunday Telegraph.
The Penguin-owned publisher’s catalogue includes classic tales such as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty – but the characters andplots have been identified as ‘outdatedor harmful’.
Industry insiders claim problematic tropes include a lack of diversity among blonde-haired andblue-eyed protagonists.
There are also fears of class discrimination due to the social rank of princes and princesses, ageism as villains are usually old, and a lack of racial diversity among main characters. ‘Love at first sight’ romances could also be erased due to the protagonists falling for each other before they have spoken.
It is feared that these tropes may suggest to children that goodlooks alone make someone worthy of attention and romance. The characters’ presumption of gender pronouns at first sight has also been raised as an issue. For example, when a princess uses the term ‘man’ upon seeing a prince for the first time before they have got to know each other, with gender-neutral language said to be preferred.
Author and sensitivity expert Virginia Mendez, who is not involved in the Ladybird review, said: ‘Normalising other relationships in books doesn’t take away from the story. [Just] letting them exist in that capacity as characters of the books.’
It comes after Penguin was forced into a U-turn after hiring sensitivity readers to rewrite chunks of roald Dahl’s books.
edits included the removal of words such as ‘hag’ and ‘fat’ – with Augustus Gloop, in Charlie andthe Chocolate Factory, insteadbeing described as ‘enormous’ – as well as the changing of phrases such as ‘you must be mad’ to ‘you must be out of your mind’.