The concerning gender bias children are internalising from their reading books

children books, kettle mag
Written by Emily Baker

Worrying gender bias has been found in children's books according to new research claiming that our children are more exposed than ever to outdated stereotypes.

The news comes after The Guardian launched an investigation alongside Neilson, a market research company, where 100 of the most bought books last year were analysed.

They found that not only were female characters used considerably less than those who were male, they were less likely to have a powerful role in the story. When turned into animals, those assigned genders were over 70% more likely to be male.

Female characters overlooked

It's not the first time that research has found female characters to be overlooked, May Narahara's work is just one example. In her report, she states: "Picture books provide role models for children in defining standards for feminine and masculine behaviour. Gender stereotypes and sexism limit children's potential growth and development".

Her study came out a whopping 20 years ago. Why has it taken so long to get media attention? Any why has nothing changed?

It's a no-brainer that children's books which don't contatin sexism can produce better changes to attitudes and forming gender identities, but it shouldn't have to be up to parents to tirelessly sieve through the bookshelves to find bed-time stories that aren't actually problematic.

Sexist guff

In a different Guardian article from a few months back, Amelia Hill wrote about the discovery that her pre-school son had started spouting "sexist guff", which probed her to research what was in the books she was reading him.

Her biggest worry was that her young son was already internalising such gender bias. She describes reading a book with him, where he said that queens aren't powerful because they don't do anything.

My first thought was where possibly could a child not even at primary school yet have formed this concept?

The answers can be found hidden in just about every children's book you can find. They use fiction to mirror the real world, which granted, is full to the brim with sexism. But they give up the chance to give a fuller education and prevent its growth.

It is, what Amelia called: "an exercise in prejudice trumping reality".

And unfortunatly, it won't be the last expose in the tyranny of blatant sexism sprawled across our society. Whether its bedded in attitudes, clothes campaigns or anything else, the list of harmful gender stereotypes shoved in our faces from all angles is virtually endless.

It has to stop.