Classic children’s books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Harry the Dirty Dog and Hairy Maclary have been considered ‘outdated’ and ‘detrimental’ for kids to read, according to a new study. 

Dr Helen Adam from Edith Cowan University’s School of Education claims that the classic books ‘perpetuate outdated stereotypes’ and are simply not diverse enough.

While children can still enjoy the classics, she says there’s an over-reliance on the classics, with teachers and parents, tending to go for the books they love.

Her research – which arose from observing eight long daycare centres in Australia and the US – found that 90 per cent of the books read to young children were stereotypical and gender restrictive.

“Purely and simply this research shows, there’s a lack of representation of boys and girls in non-traditional gender roles in these books,” she writes.


However, Dr Adam claims that the problem doesn’t solely fall on the books, but rather the educators and parents who rely on these books.

“The majority of the books shared by educators in this study promoted traditional, binary and stereotypical viewpoints of gender and gender roles,” she states.

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She adds that while many parents read the books they enjoyed as children, it is detrimental and contributes to ‘outdated viewpoints of masculinity and femininity as well as gender roles’.

As a result, it is vital that parents and educators choose a variety of books for their children, not just the classics.

You can check out Dr Adam’s full study here.

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List of classic children’s books ‘detrimental’ to kids:

  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion
  • Hairy Maclary by Lynley Dodd
  • Wombat Stew by Marcia Vaughan
  • We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
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