The Australian Educational Researcher
School of Education
Edith Cowan University - Open Access Support Scheme 2021
Australian Government Department of Education and Training
Children’s picture books contribute to children’s development of gender identity and can impact aspirations and expectations of roles in families and society. However, the world represented in children’s books reflects predominantly middle class, heterosexual, male heroes and characters. This paper reports on a cross-cultural study investigating gender representation in frequently read picture books across eight early learning centres in the United States and Australia. Forty-four educators working with 271 children participated. Data were collected from book audits and observations. Unique to this study is the presentation of a new data analysis instrument, Harper’s Framework of Gender Stereotypes Contained in Children’s Literature. The majority of the books shared by educators in this study promoted traditional, binary and stereotypical viewpoints of gender and gender roles. These findings are concerning as the evidence shows that gender development is a critical part of the earliest and most important learning experience of young children and a requirement of educational policies rooted in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
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