media messages affect us

Media Messages Affect Us

Dear Mr. Dad: I’m a new dad and have been reading to my baby. But I’ve started to notice that most of the parents in children’s books are moms. There are some books where dad is the main parent, but most of the time we’re not there at all. My wife says that the media is just reflecting reality. I disagree. What do you think?

A: First things first: It’s fantastic that you’re reading to your baby—it’s great for both of you. Now, to your question. I’ll admit that I’m a little biased in this area, since the portrayal of fathers in children’s literature was the topic of an essay (which appeared in Newsweek more than 20 years ago) and helped launch my career writing about fatherhood. In that essay, called “Not All Men Are Sly Foxes,” I made the same point that you are, that fathers are largely absent in children’s literature and that when they’re there, they’re more often than not on the periphery or are portrayed as less competent than mom. While there has been some improvement, it hasn’t been nearly enough.

One could argue, as your wife does, that the images of men and women in children’s literature are simply reflecting the reality that women tend to do more childcare than men. But if children’s literature only reflects reality, why aren’t fifty percent of the families divorced? Why aren’t fifteen to twenty percent of the single parents in these books fathers? Why, for that matter, aren’t teen mothers, smokers, alcoholics, and drug abusers adequately represented?

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Photo by Rene Asmussen from Pexels

Armin Brott

View posts by Armin Brott
Armin Brott is the proud father of three, a former U.S. Marine, a best-selling author, radio host, speaker, and one of the country’s leading experts on fatherhood. He writes frequently about fatherhood, families, and men's health. Read more about Armin or visit his website, You can also connect via social media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest,  and Linkedin.

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