Gender and ethnicity stereotypes in children's books

Khaya Novick Eisenberg, Pace University


Children appear to retain the information they read in literature better than that which they read in their text books. Studies of children's books, therefore, are a valuable resource for gauging the messages internalized by children throughout their education. Most past examinations of children's books focus on gender stereotyping and demonstrate that children's literature, highly gender-biased in the past, is slowly improving in its egalitarianism. Less attention has been directed at biases against minority ethnic groups. This study included a content analysis of the literature incorporated in the elementary school curricula of different schools, focusing on gender and cultural biases which may be reflected in these books. Thirty general interest books read in the fourth and fifth grades (fifteen per grade) were compared with thirty multicultural books written for fourth and fifth graders (fifteen per grade) in terms of how they portrayed male and female characters of different ethnic groups. Findings indicated that minority characters, while depicted positively on the whole, were underrepresented in the general interest books. No significant differences were found in terms of character image, intelligence, and socioeconomic status for various ethnic and gender groups. The adjectives used to describe Asian characters in multicultural books were evaluated out of context and perceived significantly more negatively than those adjectives used with reference to African or Native American characters. Finally, minority authors were underrepresented among in the general interest book sample.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Developmental psychology|Comparative literature|Bilingual education|Multicultural education

Recommended Citation

Eisenberg, Khaya Novick, "Gender and ethnicity stereotypes in children's books" (2002). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3039328.



Remote User: Click Here to Login (must have Pace University remote login ID and password. Once logged in, click on the View More link above)