Can books change the world?


I have been working as an early childhood educator for the past 12 years, both in Italy and Australia, and early childhood literature always fascinated me because it combines my two passions: education and artistic expression.

I always thought that a good book should also be socially meaningful, and during the Covid lockdown period, I had a decent amount of time to reflect on what my very first illustrated book should be about. Then, suddenly, the perfect idea came to mind: the world needs more books about gender equity!

Why should we talk to children about gender stereotyping? Isn’t it too early?

Recent studies had proven that children’s learning starts even before they are born, and yet there are not many picture books dedicated to gender awareness and identity available to carers and educators.

These kinds of books are very much needed though if we really want to change the social narratives that are ruling our World today.

 If we teach children values like equity and respect from the very beginning of their lives, by using gender-neutral language or non-stereotyped images from the start, children will finally feel free to do what they love to do in life, regardless of their gender or skin colour. Happy and confident children will be healthy adults.

Gender stereotyping is unfortunately still very pervasive in our society, and clearly needs to be addressed effectively, especially in early childhood literature: this is exactly what my book “HE can SHE can” is all about.

The project combines two chapters: “HE CAN”, which focuses on men’s self-worth and emotional health, and “SHE CAN”, an open letter about women’s empowerment and self-esteem. Why focusing on both boys and girls?

It is remarkably simple: gender equality is everyone’s fight and it is necessary that both boys and girls, men and women work together to achieve it.

The book was published in both Italian and English and was designed to facilitate conversations with children around gender-based biases and stereotyping with the aid of non-conventional illustrations that portray women and men from different cultural backgrounds. The intent behind this creative choice was to make sure that everyone, everywhere could feel represented and empowered by the strong message of the book. If you look carefully you might also be able to spot some famous artists and musicians among the illustrations!

If you would like to have a look at what “HE can SHE can” is all about visit or get yourself a copy online!


Susanna Mazzola