Overweight kids steroetyped in children's books?

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Recently, I was reading to Ellie from an old storybook of mine when we came across a character named Fats. As I sometimes do when reading to her, I edited the story. I didn't like that his name was Fats and I didn't like how his weight was used to portray him negatively. In the story, he was Fats the the Bully , menacing other children and making them cry.

It kind of surprised me that a children's author would describe a child like that, but it was an old story, printed in a book that was published in 1960. But according to Professor Jean Webb of Worcester University, authors are still portraying overweight kids as the bad guys in children's stories. She says that writers of children's books are 'demonizing' overweight children and points to the Harry Potter series as an example.

Referring to Dudley Dursley, Harry's nemesis, she says "Dudley is a fat little rotter and his fatness is presented as a moral failing." She goes on to name several other books in which fat characters only become popular after losing weight. She thinks these types of stories reinforce a stereotype that contributes the bullying of overweight children.

I know that some people may think she is making a big deal out of nothing, but I agree with her. Trotting out the fat guy when you need a bully, or an angelic blond when you need a heroine does send a message to readers. I think things have definitely improved since Fats the Bully, but clearly some authors are still creating characters by drawing on these easy stereotypes.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.