Cap Times: What do children’s books teach children about gender?

Beginning in 2018, University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers Ellen Converse, Matt Borkenhagen and Mark Seidenberg transcribed a collection of popular contemporary children’s books, frequenting several local libraries — from Madison Public Library to the university’s Cooperative Children’s Book Center.

Using bestseller lists, the team of researchers identified a corpus of 247 books commonly read to kids aged 5 and younger to examine how gender is represented in children’s literature. 

In their recently published study, led by Molly Lewis — a research scientist at Carnegie Mellon University and a former UW-Madison postdoctoral scholar — the team found that those books may be a potential early source solidifying children’s beliefs about gender. 

“The hypothesis is that by exposing children to these books, they are learning something about these concepts of masculinity and femininity,” Lewis said. “There’s a wide range of gender associations present in this corpus, which suggests that reading these books could potentially shape children’s gender knowledge.” 

Read the full December 30, 2021 article from the Cap Times here

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