Senior and current AP Research + Catalyst student, Quinn Tucker, has spent the year working on her research paper titled "Illustrating identity: Gender stereotypes of female characters in early elementary picture books ."
Her write up is as follows (written by Quinn herself): In addition to providing entertainment, children’s literature has been an enduring vehicle for parents and teachers to impart social values and expectations to children. Throughout the ages four to six, the primary mode of information transfer is through storytelling, coinciding with the peak years of identity development. These overlapping time periods make it so that picture books become visual metaphors for identity, showing children where they may fit into the world around them through characters.
Therefore, given that clothing is a significant part of gender identity, the ways characters are dressed and presented have deep implications for gender identity development. As creatures of imitation, children need to see a range of character representation in books to understand who they are and who they are able to become. Specifically, if a child is only seeing female characters wear one type of clothing, they may believe that all females are constricted to a certain clothing aesthetic, without much freedom or choice. Through a directed approach content analysis, I investigated to find the proportion of female characters in non-stereotypical female clothing to all female characters in the Singapore American School first grade book room selection.
After looking at the shared first-grade books for the extent to which they enforce clothing stereotypes for females—defined as dresses, skirts, and pink clothing—I found a high proportion, revealing that gender stereotypes may be perpetuated in this community, a conclusion that should not be taken lightly.
Despite any outward claims of inclusivity, the reading material provided to first-grade children at a top international school may be a problem, keeping the cyclical and rigid nature of gender stereotypes alive.
Quinn will be presenting on Monday, April 23, 2018, 12.50 p.m.—1.20 p.m. If you're interested in gender stereotypes in elementary picture books, check out her project!