Children’s books communicate our culture’s values, ideas, and beliefs to young minds. They teach young kids morals, but just what do they teach about gender roles? In the largest study ever conducted on children’s books, researchers found that there is a bias towards male characters. But, they also found that this bias has improved considerably over the last century.
The study, published in Gender & Society, looked at 6,000 books published between 1900 and 2000. It was the largest study ever performed of its kind. While many studies have analyzed this subject before, they have been limited in scope.
The findings revealed that male characters are the main character 57% of the time, while females are only featured as the central character 31% of the time. Additionally, male names were featured in 36.5% of book titles, while female names only made the cut in 17.5% of them.
Researchers also found it interesting that when animals appeared in children’s books, they were most often male animals. The numbers showed that male animals appear in 23% of books, and female animals were in 7.5% of them.
Apart from the animal representations, the numbers are showing great improvement over the last century. In the 1990s, equality was basically reached, with the male-to-female ratio being 0.9:1 for child characters and 1.2:1 for adult characters. The only area still needing improvement was with animal representations, where the ratio is still 2:1.