Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

The Australian Educational Researcher




School of Education




Edith Cowan University - Open Access Support Scheme 2021

Australian Government Department of Education and Training


Adam, H., & Harper, L. J. (2023). Gender equity in early childhood picture books: A cross-cultural study of frequently read picture books in early childhood classrooms in Australia and the United States. The Australian Educational Researcher, 50, 453–479.


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.



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.