How diverse is ethnic diversity in books for young children?
This study examined overt and subtle manifestations of ethnic bias in children's literature. Caldecott Medal and Honor books (N = 81) and New York Times Best Illustrated Children's books (N = 193) from the 1970s and 1990s were examined. Only books with people characters, words, and United States settings were coded, resulting in a final sample of 138 books. The centrality, ethnicity, gender, and occupation of all people characters were coded as were all adjectives used to describe main characters. ^ African Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans were found significantly overrepresented relative to their actual population proportions in both periods, but these differences were only substantial for Native Americans. Latino/as were significantly and substantially underrepresented relative to their actual population proportions. Whites were significantly underrepresented relative to their actual population proportion in the 1970s books, although this difference was slight. Further, the representation of Whites decreased proportionately over time as the representation of people of Color increased, although the amount of change was modest. ^ From books from the 1990s, the top five adjectives used to describe White characters and those used to describe people of Color characters were identified, as were the top five adjectives used in common to describe both ethnic categories. These 15 adjectives were rated by a community sample of 109 parents of kindergarten children on a semantic differential scale. Each participant's ratings produced a score for each adjective on four dimensions of meaning: evaluation, potency, activity, and gender association. Results indicated significant overall and main effects. Follow-up tests revealed that the adjectives most frequently used to describe White characters were significantly more likely to have positive, powerful, active, and masculine-associated connotations than the adjectives most frequently used to describe people of Color characters or the most frequent adjectives common to both groups. ^ Exploratory analyses revealed significant gender and class bias in this sample of award-winning children's literature. Girls/women were underrepresented as supporting characters relative to boys/men and were much less likely than men to be employed in paid positions. Also, White characters were consistently underrepresented as working class and poor and increasingly portrayed as wealthy or middle class. ^
Literature, General|Psychology, Social|Psychology, Developmental
Jacque Lynne Washkwich,
"How diverse is ethnic diversity in books for young children?"
Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access).