Do Quality Informational Children's Books Show a Gender Bias? A Pictorial Examination of Ten Years of Sibert and Orbis Pictus Award Winners

By Cynthia G. Anderson.

Published by The International Journal of Arts Education

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Art has the ability to influence a child's worldview. This analysis looks at how the images in children's books may impact girls' gender beliefs about their future role in society, in particular, in science and engineering. In children's books, the art, not the text, often primarily defines the message (and the effects) according to picture book theory. This paper explored science-oriented (informational) children's books. Such books are focused on "real life" not fiction, and therefore, expose children to future roles and careers. As such, they can combat negative stereotypes before the first critical drop-out point for girls in science, namely before their transition to middle school. This paper did a pictorially-focused mixed methods (quantitative and qualitative) content analysis of Sibert and Orbis Pictus award-winning informational (non-fiction) children's books, and used the textual information only as a secondary source for role identification. The analysis found moderate to severe gender bias in both the frequencies of male to female images and in the stereotyping of roles. These findings were in line with current and past research that has focused instead on fictional award-winning books.

Keywords: Children's Literature, Picture Book Theory, Content Analysis, Visual Analysis, Stereotypes, STEM

The International Journal of Arts Education, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp.29-46. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 335.210KB).

Cynthia G. Anderson

Graduate Student, Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, University of Washington, Tacoma, Tacoma, WA, USA

C.G. Anderson is currently a graduate student at the University of Washington, Tacoma studying the intersection of art and science. C.G. has spent over twenty years working as a scientist and computer programmer in both the U.S. government and the software industry. With a background that spans physics, computer science, and math as well as communications and art, C.G. has seen first-hand the effects of gender bias in the sciences and also knows how important art is to creativity and innovation in the sciences. As such, she seeks ways to combat negative stereotypes and encourage science participation by girls and women.