School Psychology professor combats societal gender roles with children’s book
Escaping stereotypes, targeting toxic masculinity at a young age, and teaching boys’ emotional expression, Texas State University school psychology professor and author Jon Lasser has written “What Boys Do,” a children's book for parents raising young boys.
“What Boys Do,” (Magination Press, 2021) combats forced gender roles and stereotypes regarding masculinity by addressing how they can be harmful to growing boys and motivating them to deal with extreme gendered behavior including aggression and violence.
“The book shows boys acting in ways that deviate from those norms to provide positive counter-examples,” Lasser said.
Lasser was inspired by the books he read with his daughters. Those books focused on teaching young girls to be strong, brave, and daring. He credits the feminist movement for creating spaces for books that teach children how to confront gender roles and their emotions in a child-friendly way.
“As I started looking for books that expanded possibilities for boys, I had a harder time finding comparable resources, so I decided to create one,” Lasser said.
During his childhood, Lasser felt pressure to conform to gender role stereotypes to be more masculine, however, with his book, his goal is to allow boys to feel the opposite.
“I hope that families will come to see that boys can transcend traditional stereotypes so that boys can be their fullest selves,” Lasser said. “I want the message to be, follow your heart, your interests, and your goals to be the best possible you.”
As much as the book is for young boys, it is for parents and caregivers as well. While the book targets children with its descriptive and bright illustrations by Robert Paul Jr., Lasser made sure parents are included. In an author’s note he explains the context of child developmental psychology, gender roles, and mental health. The note also gives tips on how parents can help boys develop and grow in healthy ways.
“Just as the words and pictures show boys that they can be sensitive, empathic, and nurturing. the book conveys the same message to adult readers,” Lasser said.
Lasser hopes his book can inspire boys to grow up to be their authentic selves and escape the constraints of societal gender roles. Lasser made the book in hopes each reader can see themselves within the pages.
“What Boys Do gives readers permission to cry, dream, love, and play in ways that feel authentic,” Lasser said.