Gender Stereotyping in Children’s Literature

Gender Stereotyping is mainly putting down someone because of their “sex” or not believing they are able to do something because they are either male or female (Wiki). From a sociological perspective Gender roles are cultural and personal. They determine how males and females should think, speak, dress, and interact within the society. Learning plays a role in this process of shaping gender roles. These gender patterns are deeply rooted in the cognitive frameworks regarding what defines masculine and feminine. There are many ways and types of socializing agents’ through parents, teachers, peers, movies; television, music, books, and religion they teach and reinforce gender roles throughout the lifespan, parents probably exercise the greatest influence, especially on their very young offspring.

Generally people may believe that children’s picture books may be one of the last places where gender stereotypes are present. But there are stereotypical messages and it is evident in picture books and as a result, children may be limited and restricted to and may possibility mold into these stereotypes. The most common gender messages that children’s books gives are the importance of traditional roles of men and women. Girls are almost always shown as passive and boys are always shown as being active, strong and the leading actor type. Picture books main generally focuses on images and its interpretation.

 In our Caibbeanna class presently we are discussing the authors of early writings up to the present and there is a great number of male than of female writers, only up in the later part of 19th century we have seen many more female writers taking the fore front of literature. Women in the past were under represented in titles, central roles, pictures, and illustrations. According to the article “Girls will be girls…and so on” Caldecott winner’s books never featured women in lead roles but a mere fairy godmother which obviously did not translate into realistic ambition for young girls. Then women were invisible, of course in our present time we see a large number of female authors and we are seeing a significant change in the treatment of gender in picture books, which is a great achievement for us women!

Many people have the perception that girls should not play football, cricket or rugby because these are boy’s games and boys are not to play with dolls, play houses or feed the baby. These types of stereotyping I believe are changing and are being replaced by egalitarian (equal) thoughts, even though there may still be some negative stereotypes that are still persistent. In the profession that I’m pursuing (Librarianship) we are told by most of our lecturers that when selecting materials for the library as well as giving information to our clients we ought to have unbiased views and a balanced collection. A decisive study by Weitzman, Eifler, Hokada, and Ross (1972) showed that females were seriously stereotyped and ignored in most literature for young people.

 Gender stereotyping has always been a part of any given culture. In our culture, it is seen almost everywhere we go in our schools, playgrounds, work places, homes, and even in picture books for children. Children are constantly developing and taking in what society throws at them to better understand the world in which they live in. They always interpret the social messages they receive and try to mold themselves to fit into that norm. So what kind messages are they receiving from their books? Families, schools, teachers, and friends all influence children, therefore books are important factors that alters their way of thinking. It absolutely gives children messages of what their gender roles are and gives limitations to they are capable of. Not knowing their full potential, these messages can inhibit the growth of young people’s dreams and manipulate their minds to believe that they must act within their “given place” in society. Picture books have great influence on impressionable young children, who are just starting to form values and attitudes about society so it is important to emphasize the importance of differentiating the books with those stereotypes for the good of our present and future children.

“Effects of Gender Stereotypes in Children’s Picture Books | Bookstove.” Bookstove | Books, Literature. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2012.

Freeman, Don. “Gender Stereotypes in Picture Books are Blamed for Affecting Children «  annamariehoulis.”  annamariehoulis. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2012.

“What is gender stereotyping.” The Q&A wiki. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2012.


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