Bendigo children's book, Rainbow Fox, to help outfox gender inequality

THEY might be in kindergarten, but 42 children at Lighting Reef Early Learning Centre can say they’ve been published. 

Budding artists and writers were among those at the launch of Rainbow Fox, a children’s book, at Bendigo Library on Friday.

Their input was evident from the artwork to the characters and plot. 

The children created the characters of Rosie the fox, Percia the duck and T Rex the dinosaur during a series of workshops. 

An artist and author guided them in the process. 

Piper Watt, Xavier Stedman and Leo Hakamies-Anstey flip through Rainbow Fox. Picture: EMMA D'AGOSTINO

Piper Watt, Xavier Stedman and Leo Hakamies-Anstey flip through Rainbow Fox. Picture: EMMA D'AGOSTINO

The story emerged from, and encourages readers to consider, attitudes towards gender equity, diversity and respectful friendships. 

Centre for Non-Violence prevention and development general manager Robyn Trainor said children formed ideas about gender stereotypes at an early age. 

These ideas could influence their thinking and expectations of what a boy or a girl could and should do. 

She was hopeful the book would support parents and early years professionals to talk with children about gender equity and respectful relationships.

“Gender stereotypes are recognised as a key driver of violence against women and their children,” Ms Trainor said. 

“Education and role modelling are key to challenging rigid gender stereotypes and norms within childhood.”

Gemma Rogers, aka Batgirl, cuddles T Rex the dinosaur. Picture: EMMA D'AGOSTINO

Gemma Rogers, aka Batgirl, cuddles T Rex the dinosaur. Picture: EMMA D'AGOSTINO

She said Rainbow Fox challenged gender stereotypes, and there was a need for more projects like it. 

“We need to continue to capture children’s voices and experiences to ensure that every child aspires to and achieves their full potential, regardless of gender,” Ms Trainor said. 

“This book provides a model for talking about gender equity and respectful relationships with children and we hope that this project is the first of many more collaborations and partnerships in the early years sector.”

Rainbow Fox was a collaboration between the Centre for Non-Violence and Communities for Children Bendigo, in partnership with Kids’ Own Publishing.

Communities for Children Bendigo co-ordinator Naarah Dawes emphasised the need to place children front and centre in efforts to address family violence, and the key role early childhood professionals play in creating gender equitable environments.

“Children’s voices provide perspective, knowledge and understanding different to adults,” she said. 

“This project provides a model to demonstrate children’s participation through out every stage of the process.

“It is about children’s contribution; their voice can influence program design.”  

Rainbow Fox was launched during the Write on the Fringe Festival, which complements the Bendigo Writers Festival.