I don’t think that any children’s librarian is going to be surprised by the findings of a recent study of children’s books. The most comprehensive study of 20th century children’s literature ever done, it revealed a bias towards books that feature boys and men. Intriguingly, the bias was also present when the characters are animals.
Now, if you has asked me if more books featured boys or girls, I would have automatically answered boys. I am surprised by the extent of the bias as well as the fact that it had not gotten any better towards the end of the 20th century. In other words, we aren’t making much progress with gender in children’s books!
Science Daily has some bulleted points in their article about the study that I find particularly interesting:
- Males are central characters in 57 percent of children’s books published per year, while only 31 percent have female central characters.
- On average, 36.5 percent of books in each year studied include a male in the title, compared to 17.5 percent that include a female.
While I find the information interesting and important, even more important to me is what we do about it. It seems to me that it is the same issue we have with all sorts of diversity in children’s books: races, colors, sexual orientation. So the question is universal about featuring children and adults in children’s books that speak to all levels of diversity.
What do we do as librarians who are cultivating collections for children? What do we do as book creators to get more girls and even women into our books? How do we all take responsibility for what children in our world are reading and therefore learning about how society works?
Big thanks to Hedgehog Librarian for the link.