Date of Award
Educational Administration and Policy Studies
Kent Seidel, Ph.D.
Books, Early education, Gender bias, Literature, Preschool, Young children
Preschool children's perceptions around gender identity and development can be influenced by their experiences. With many children spending a portion of their day in child care, the environmental factors of these programs are important. One aspect of the environment can impact preschool children is the books that are available to them. For over 40 years, children's literature in the United States has been studied and found to be biased in their portrayal of males and females. Males were more often found as main characters and depicted as capable leaders and thinkers. Female characters were shown as weaker, often appearing in home settings and in traditional work roles.
This study was conducted in Denver, Colorado and Oslo, Norway to compare the preschool literature between the two countries, since Norway has consistently ranked as one of the most gender equal countries in the world. The question was whether the greater equality in Norwegian society would be reflected in the books that are read to its young children.
The results of the study indicate that while both countries continue to need improvement on the proportion of male and female main characters, Norway had nearly three times the number of books that depict a male and female main character sharing the role of main character. This could indicate a pattern of shared responsibilities between the sexes in Norwegian culture, as compared to the more patriarchal American society. The United States had significantly more instances of fact books, such as letter and number recognition.
The investigation of traditional role depiction of male and female characters showed additional significant differences between the two countries. The United States literature depicted females in traditional roles more often and included lower instances of characters in non-traditional roles. Norwegian books were most likely to depict characters in gender neutral roles.
It does appear that the cultural norms of gender equity in Norway are reflected in the literature that is available to the children in their preschool programs and that American teachers may be able to learn how to more closely examine their own classroom libraries for bias.
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Floyd, Cathrine Aasen, "Gender Depiction in Preschool Books: A Comparison Between Early Care and Education Classrooms in the United States and Norway" (2012). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 203.
Received from ProQuest
Cathrine Aasen Floyd
Education, Scandinavian studies, Women's studies