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Running head: TEACHERS PERCEPTIONS OF GENDER ROLES IN CHILDRENS

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TEACHERS PERCEPTIONS OF GENDER ROLES IN CHILDRENS LITERATURE


AND ARE GENDER ROLES A FACTOR WHEN TEACHERS PICK THEIR GUIDED
READING BOOKS OR READ ALOUDS
By
Allison Kirby
University of Saint Mary

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CHAPTER 1: STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM


PROBLEM
Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women, Emma Watson gave a speech about gender
inequality and stated, Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men
and women should feel free to be strongIt is time that we all see gender as a spectrum
instead of two sets of opposing ideals (UN Speech, September, 20 2014). Emma Watson
explains that change needs to occur regarding gender roles in our society. One place
where social change can begin is in elementary schools. External factors in elementary
schools such as childrens books can shape childrens views on gender roles. Childrens
books help children frame their notions of appropriate behaviors and traits that are
associated with male and female. Research suggests that most childrens books display
traditional gender stereotypes and present few characters in non-traditional gender roles.
Thus, children are forming their gender schemas based on the notion that females and
males are associated with traditional gender characteristics and behaviors.
Moreover, there have been research studies that demonstrate that the use of
children's literature can optimistically change children's gender attitudes. These studies
have shown that nontraditional gender roles in childrens literature have altered students
perceptions to embrace that females and males can engage in the same nonstereotypical
activities. However, most of the research studies have studied the short term-outcomes of
nontraditional gender role in childrens books have on childrens perception of gender
roles. Furthermore, some studies retested a week after and concluded that the concept had
faded because they were not continually exposed to nontraditional gender roles in
childrens books. This research will examine teachers perspectives on gender roles in

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childrens literature through the following questions: (1) How do teachers think the
majority of childrens books portray gender roles? (2) Do teachers think childrens books
affect how students think about gender stereotypes? Elaborate. (3) Have teachers
observed students impersonate gender stereotypical behaviors that align with a childrens
book that the teachers picked for guided reading book or read alouds?, and the main
question of the research (4) Are traditional gender stereotypes in childrens books a factor
that you use when choosing what childrens books you read aloud or pick for guided
reading groups? Explain.
POPULATION AND EFFECTS ON POPULATION
This research study will benefit and affect a variety of populations. One of the
first populations it could affect is school administration at elementary schools. If school
administrations take note of this study, they could affect change in their school by
informing their teachers of this problem and the administration could see if teachers take
this problem into account when picking childrens books for reading groups or read
alouds. This study could also affect children. If schools become aware of this problem
and try to change it then children can positively be affected. Children can then form a
well-rounded notion of gender roles through childrens literature, rather than just
traditional gender roles. This could allow children to grow up knowing they have a wide
range of opportunities and are not limited to traditional gender role characteristics.
DEFINITION OF TERMS
In this research study there are many different variables to define. According to
the American Psychological Association, gender is defined as behavior that is
compatible with cultural expectations and refers to the attitudes, feelings and behaviors

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that a given culture associates with persons biological sex (American Psychological
Association, 2011, pg. 1). While traditional gender roles are defined as behaviors and
practices differentially assigned to women and men (Encyclopedia: Gender and Society,
pg. 7). Hamilton and Anderson describe that traditional gender role for men are generally
to be independent, aggressive, physical, ambitious and emotionless, while women are
generally expected to be passive, sensitive, emotional, nurturing and supportive.
Moreover, according to Hamilton and Anderson traditional gender occupations for males
take on an active role, which include occupations such as doctors, fireman, and
policeman. Whereas females traditional occupations taken on a passive role which
includes roles such as teachers, nurses, maids and housewives.
In this qualitative study, children are defined as young people that range from 3-6
years old or are children in preschool, kindergarten or 1st grade. In addition, childrens
books and childrens literature are interchangeable in the study. According to the library
of Congress Collections Policy Statement, childrens literature is defined as material
written and produced for the information or entertainment of children and young adults
(Library of Congress Collections Policy Statement, 2008, p.1). Additionally this article
suggests that childrens literature includes artistic illustrations, fairy tales, non-fiction,
fiction, and are literary.
PURPOSE OF STUDY
The purpose of this qualitative study is to explore teachers voices on gender
stereotypes in childrens literature. More specifically the purpose of this study is to
investigate if teachers consider traditional gender stereotypes when selecting books for
reading groups or read alouds. Research has shown that if teachers careful pick

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nontraditional gender stereotype childrens books then it opens the childrens perceptions
to different gender roles. It is important to evaluate if teachers think about gender roles in
childrens books before they expose the childrens books to their students because they
are the ones educating societies children. Thus the question specifically asks, does
traditional gender stereotyping in childrens books affect how teachers pick their guided
reading books or read alouds and investigates teachers perceptions of gender roles in
children literature.

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CHAPTER TWO: REVIEW OF LITERATURE


INTRODUCTION
This chapter reviews the literature pertaining to gender stereotypes in childrens
literature. Moreover, it reviews both theories and research articles that relate to the
research question. The articles are discussed in sequential order starting with the first
revolutionary study by Weitzman and the articles are grouped based on concepts. Each
article was selected based on the reliability of the article source as well as to avoid
opinion pieces. In addition, there has been a great deal of research conducted on this
topic thus the articles were selected based on if they provided new information.
Moreover, the literature review is organized in the following order: theories, history of
gender stereotypes in childrens literature, gender stereotypes in childrens literature and
childrens gender stereotypical views modified through childrens books
THEORIES
The gender schema theory has guided this research question. Sandra Bem created
the gender schema theory. Bem states, a schema is a cognitive structure, a network of
associations that organizes and guides an individual perception (Bem, 1981, 355). Bem
believes that children actively construct what defines males and females by studying
individuals in the society that they live in. Children assemble new information from
external factors such as the media, books and observations from around them. Bem
explains children place this new information into their former existing schema of how a
man or women should operate in society. Bem states that the child will then apply this
schema to his or her self-concept and to match his or her preferences, attitudes,
behaviors and personal attributes to the prescriptive standard or guide of the gender

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schema (Bem, 1981, 355). Thus Bem believes that once children label there own gender
based on their schemas they are anticipated to act consistent with that schema.
Another theory that connects to the research question is the social cognitive
theory. According to Bussey and Bandura, this theory states proximal social influences
of parents, teachers and peers as well as distal social and symbolic influences from mass
media and cultural intuitions all serve to promote gender development (Bussey and
Bandura, 1992, 1238). The social cognitive theory states that when children are little
they behave according to what is right for their gender as expected from outside parties.
However, as children grow up their behavior shifts to how the children personally feel is
right (Bussey and Bandura, 1992, 1248). Thus both of these theories indicate that
children construct their gender schemas through external factors including books.
HISTORY OF GENDER ROLES AND FEMALES IN CHILDRENS BOOKS
The first study that examined gender roles in childrens books was by Lenore J.
Weitzman in 1972. He conducted a study that focused on the gender roles in preschool
pictures books. Weitzman chose to analyze the winners of the Caldecott Medal.
Weitzman found that females were underrepresented in the titles, central roles, pictures
and stories of every sample of books he examined (Weitzman, 1972, p. 1128). He found
that in the illustrations of the picture books there were 261 males compared to only 23
pictures of females. Weitzman states, children scanning the list of titles of what have
been designated as the very best childrens books are bound to receive the impression that
girls are not very important because no on has bothered to write books about them
(Weitzman, 1972, p. 1129).

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Almost twenty years later in 1986 Mark Barnett came out with another study that
analyzed gender roles in childrens literature. Barnett found that male illustrations greatly
out number illustrations of girls, which is consistent with Weitzmans study. Additionally,
Barnett stated that male and female characters are engaged in stereotypical activities.
Barnet states, that themes of active mastery, independence, and adventure are primarily
associated with boys and men in childrens books, girls and women are usually depicted
as passive, dependent and domestic (Barnett, 1986, p. 344).
Scott McDonald analyzed 41 childrens picture books based on the theme of
helping but also analyzed gender roles and female underrepresentation. McDonald found
that, of 187 characters identified, 110 were male and 77 were females. Thus McDonald
came to the conclusion that there was still an unbalance of male and female characters
with an overrepresentation of males but the gap has decreased since Weitzmans study.
Turner-Bower examined thirty Caldecott Medal Childrens books from 19841994. She found that males were talked about more often than females in the titles
having a ratio of 24:10, which is consistent with the Weitzman study. However, TurnerBower noted that there was no difference in the central roles between female and male.
The author also noted that males were described as more potent, active and masculine
than females; however, females were described as more positive than males. This is
consistent with the notion that childrens books portray traditional female and male roles.
On the other hand, Oskamp et al. conducted a research study five years after TurnerBower. Oskamp concluded, illustrations containing people, 72% included females and
79% included males, only a slight disparity (Oskamp, 1996, p. 34). However, Oskamp

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et al. still found that females and males are still in their traditional gender roles, having
only one male take on a non-traditional gender role (Oskamp, 1996, p. 34).
Moreover, 5 years later Gooden & Gooden came out with a study that suggested
that the, prevalence of gender stereotypes decreased slightly but the stereotyped images
of females are still significant (Gooden & Gooden, 2001, p. 96). He goes on to suggest
that children are limited in their stereotypes and that it can prevent children from
exploring activities and interests. Moreover, Ly Kok and Findaly found in 2010 that there
is no significant difference between females and male representation. Thus it seems that
females and males are more or less represented equally but they are still limited to their
traditional gender roles in childrens books.
GENDER STEROEYTPES IN CHILDRENS LITERATURE
OCCUPATION
Weitzman found that none of the adult females in the pictures books had an
occupation outside of the home. Heitz revealed that males were three times likely to have
a job than females. McDonald found that, males characters were given a much broader
range of roles (31) than female characters (19) (McDonald, 1989, p. 397). Additionally,
McDonald found that out of the 19 traditional roles for females there were 8 roles that
were passive (housewife, maid, waitress etc). According to McDonald the female are still
portrayed in gender traditional role such as housewives, teachers, and old maids while
males are portrayed as wise man, farmer, and king.
Gooden & Gooden states that, although most of the womens roles were
traditional ones (mother, grandmother, washerwomen etc) they were finally seen as
doctors, chefs and even milk vendors (Gooden & Gooden, 2001, p. 95). Gooden &

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Gooden found that males were seldom seen caring for the children or grocery shopping
but that for the most part female and males were seen in their traditional gender roles.
Diekman and Murnen argued that in recent childrens books there has been less sexist in
the sense that women would be portrayed in non-traditional roles. However, they found
out that childrens books have not portrayed men in non-traditional roles such a
housewife or teacher.
EMOTIONS
Tepper and Cassidy evaluated the levels of emotion showed by females and males
in childrens literature. The authors defined girls express more traditional emotions
including fear, shyness and love while the boys traditional emotions are anger, contempt
and disgust. The author states, the analysis of amount of emotion words and gender
indicated that children are being exposed to more instances of males being associated
with emotional words than females, but this is because males appear more frequently
(Tepper and Cassidy, 1999, p. 277). Tepper and Cassidy didnt find any differences
between hate emotions or love emotions between female and males.
Hamilton et al. found that mothers express more emotion in the books, which
includes yelling at the children. Turner and-Bower analyzed the different language used
by females and males. The authors found that females were more likely to be described
as: beautiful, frightened, worth, sweet, week and scared. While males were described as:
big, horrible, fierce, terrible, furious and proud.
NURUTRING
Hamilton et al. makes the claim that fathers are underrepresented in childrens
books. He states that mothers appear in childrens book more often than fathers do.

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Hamilton states that, babies were nurtured almost 10 times as often by mothers as by
fathers and that older children were nurtured more than twice as often by mothers as
by fathers (Hamilton et al., 2004,p. 148). Hamilton et al. also found out that mothers
make the most contact with the children through expressing emotion and feeding the
children. Additionally, Oskamp et al. study revealed that females were more likely to
display nurturing needs than males were.
HELPING BEHAVIOR
Barnett coined that boys are more likely to be shown in the helpful roles than
females and they were more likely to receive help. Additionally, McDonald revealed that
male characters are responsible for 55 helping acts and females were only responsible for
37 helping acts. McDonald states, male characters tended to be mostly instrumental
(solicited or unsolicited action intended to obtain a desired object, situation or outcome
for a character) in their helping behavior, whereas female characters were equally
instrumental and expressive (feelings-oriented response intended to comfort, console or
support a character) (McDonald, 1989, pg. 398). McDonald goes on to reveal that it
would be pleasing for males to show more expressive helping behavior because
instrumental helping behavior plays into their gender stereotype as a male.
ACTIVE VS. PASSIVE
Moreover, Weitzman found that females are playing irrelevant roles and remain
nameless in the stories. Weitzman states, that in the world of pictures books boys are
active and girls are passive. Not only are boys engaged in exciting and adventuresome
roles but they engage in more varied pursuits and demand more independent (Weitzman,
1971, p. 1131). In contrast, Weitzman found that girls are pictured in the books as

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passive, stationary because of their clothing (skirts and dresses) and are found indoors
more.
Oskamp et al. discovered four typical gender traits that make the female passive
and the male active. The female gender traits were dependency and submission while the
males were described as independence and creative. The authors show that the females
traditional gender traits are passive while the males traditional gender traits were active.
INDOORS AND OUTDOORS
Williams et al. states that when females were shown, female characters intended
to be presented as insignificant or unconscious, passive, immobile and indoor (Williams
et al., 1987, p. 148). The authors found that 31.9 percent of the girls were indoors
compared to 22 percent of the boys. The authors discovered that although males and
females are found outside, males are significantly less likely to be portrayed indoors.
Additionally, Oskamp et al. discovered that gender groups are changing locations. The
study showed that the location where characters were depicted were 50% indoors for
girls whereas surprisingly, boys were showing indoors 69% of the time (Oskamp, 1996,
p. 34). Thus Oskamp et al. concludes that both male and female genders are moving
indoors.
STEROTYPICAL GENDER VIEWS MODIFIED THROUGH CHIDLRENS BOOKS
Scott and Feldman-Sumners performed an experimental study on portraying a
female in a traditional male role in childrens book and how that effects childrens
perceptions of gender roles. The authors had one group of early elementary children read
a childrens book that had a female as the central role in a traditional male role and the
other group was not showed this book. In the study, the children that read the book

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showed significant increases in their views that girls have the ability to engage in
nonstereotypic activities. However, one draw back to this study was that the authors
found that the nonstereotypic view was not transferred to other nonstereotypical
behaviors or roles that were not read in the books.
Moreover, Ashton conducted a study that involved the views of nonstereotypical
literature and nonstereotypical toys. Ashton studied two groups of children. One group
was exposed to a nonstereotypical childrens book and the other group was exposed to
gender-stereotypic books. Ashton discovered that children that were read or showed
nonstereotypical childrens books were more likely to choose to play with a
nonstereotypical toy than the group that was exposed to the gender stereotypical
childrens book. In addition, Ashton comments that, this study was concentrated on the
short-term effects of children sex roles and that further research needs to be conducted
to assess if it is long term (Ashton, 1983, p.46).
Trepanier et al. examined gender attitudes of young children concerning
occupation roles and investigated that selected childrens book would positively influence
children on gender thinking and attitudes towards traditional occupational roles.
Trepanier et al. results suggest that in the pre-test, males and females had already thought
that traditional gender occupation roles were seen as suitable for both genders. The author
suggests that the efforts at school are impacting unbiased gender views. Trepanier et al.
goes on to explain, this study suggests that a valuable resource for influencing childrens
gender attitudes is the reading of carefully selected books because students in school
have shown gender-equitable views (Trepanier et al, 1999, 158). Moreover, Trepanier et

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al. noted long-term follow up measures is necessary to further determine the extent of
influence and the long-term effects of intervention (Trepanier et al., 1999, p.158).
Flerx, Fidler, and Rogers concluded a research study on egalitarian literature.
Their research centered around children in preschool. The egalitarian literature presented
characters in nonsterotypic roles. Flerx, Fidler and Rogers suggest that this reduced
stereotypical thinking in preschool children. However, the authors did a follow up one
week later and found that the reduction of reading egalitarian literature showed that
nonstereotypical views were not apparent anymore. Thus the authors suggest: since
egalitarian symbolic models had a strong immediate impact on a majority of the
measures, it is plausible to assume that repeated exposure to egalitarian sex role models
would sustain less stereotyped attitudes (Flerx, 1976, p.1005).
As demonstrated above there are traditional gender roles presented in childrens
literature. Studies have indicated that if teachers expose their students to nontraditional
gender roles then the students would engage in nontraditional gender roles. Diekman and
Murnen state, if societys goal is to enable children to pursue a wide range of
opportunities in order to make the best use of their individual talents and abilities,
children need to see the whole range of opportunities as viable choices rather than see
only traditional roles (Direken and Murnen, 2004 p. 382). Thus, this research will
examine teachers perspectives on gender roles in childrens literature through the
following questions: (: (1) How do teachers think the majority of childrens books portray
gender roles? (2) Do teachers think childrens books affect how students think about
gender stereotypes? Elaborate. (3) Have teachers observed students impersonate gender
stereotypical behaviors that align with a childrens book that the teachers picked for

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guided reading book or read alouds?, and the main question of the research (4) Are
traditional gender stereotypes in childrens books a factor that you use when choosing
what childrens books you read aloud or pick for guided reading groups? Explain.

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CHAPTER 3: METHODOLOGY
As mentioned this study was based off of research that demonstrates that there are
gender stereotypes in childrens literature. This qualitative study investigated teachers
perceptions on gender stereotypes in childrens literature. More specifically, this
qualitative study used a questionnaire to collect data. This chapter describes the benefits
of a qualitative study, the population of the study, the research design, the data collection
tool and the data analysis method.
BENEFITS OF A QUALITATIVE STUDY
Using a questionnaire is beneficial because it allowed the researcher to explore
the participants experiences and opinions through open-ended questions and close-ended
questions. In addition, the questionnaires allowed for quick responses from the
participants as well as addressed multiple concepts simultaneously. The questionnaire
also permitted the participants to complete the questionnaire at their own convenience.
The questionnaire allowed for detailed responses and allowed the participants to respond
anyway, not in a specific way. The researchers primary purpose of data collection for
qualitative research was to focus on the meanings and understandings the participants
have on traditional gender roles in childrens literature.
POPULATION
This study took place in the De Soto School District. More specifically, it was
conducted at Horizon Elementary School, 7210 Chouteau St, Shawnee, KS 66227. The
sample size in this study was 12 teachers that age from twenty-five to sixty-five years old
from Horizon Elementary School. These 12 teachers were either reading specialists,
librarian, kindergarten teachers or 1st grade teachers. Specials (art, music, p.e., computers

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and library) teachers, 3rd grade, 4th grade and 5th grade teachers were not included in the
study. The researchers role in this study was to administrate surveys and collect data.
PROCEDURE
The researcher emailed the principal of the school, Horizon Elementary School
in De Soto District, 7210 Chouteau St, Shawnee, KS 66227, to obtain permission to
conduct the study at Horizon Elementary School. After the researcher got the principals
permission, the researcher started creating the tool (questionnaire). The 12-item
questionnaire (Appendix A) was created based on themes that emerged from the literature
review. Once the questionnaire was created the researcher piloted the questionnaire for
bias and clarity by asking colleagues to answer and look over the instrument. Once the
researcher obtained feedback from the testers, the researcher reconstructed the
questionnaire to include the feedback.
The researcher recruited the subjects by emailing the teachers included in the
study: the reading specialists, librarian, kindergarten teachers and 1st grade teachers. The
researcher had access to the kindergarten teachers, 1st grade teachers and reading
specialists email addresses because the researcher works at the same school. The
researcher emailed the teachers a recruiting script that includes the study, a description of
the research study and invited them to participant in the study (Appendix C).
Additionally, if the teachers agreed to participant in the study then they were instructed to
sign the informed consent (Appendix D) form that is also attached to the email and drop
off the informed consent form in the researchers mailbox at Horizon Elementary School.
Once the researcher has obtained the informed consent form from the teachers the
researcher emailed the teachers a link to the questionnaire in survey monkey. Along with

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the questionnaire link the researcher sent a vocabulary list (Appendix B) that goes with
the questionnaire. The questionnaire took the teachers approximately 20-40 minutes to
complete. The researcher downloaded the questionnaire and saved it as a subject number
to protect the participants and to allow the questionnaires to be anonymous.
When the researcher received all of the questionnaires back from the teachers the
questionnaires were printed off at a secure location and were saved on the researchers
computer. The researcher kept the data locked at the researchers home in a secure
location. The data was only kept a month after the competition of the Masters of
Elementary Education program. The researcher then used the thematic analyze approach
to analysis the data that will be collected from the questionnaire.
TOOL
The tool was a questionnaire that was constructed with both open-ended questions
and closed-ended questions. Along with the tool there was a vocabulary sheet that defines
specific terms that are used in the questionnaire (Appendix C). The 12-item
questionnaire was organized in different sections starting with demographic questions
first. The next section of the questionnaire pertained to teachers experiences with gender
stereotypes in childrens literature. Questions relating to teacher experiences with gender
stereotypes were in the next section on the questionnaire. The last section of the
questionnaire related to teachers perceptions of gender stereotypes in childrens literature.
Refer to Appendix A for the specific questions on the questionnaire. The questionnaire
was constructed to answer the research question and to gain insight into the perceptions
of teachers on gender stereotyping.
DATA ANALYSIS METHOD

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The data in this study was analyzed through the thematic analysis approach.
According to Hendricks the thematic approach is, analyzing specific examples in
qualitative data to discover general themes in the data (Hendricks, 2013, p.155).
Hendricks goes on to explain that the researcher analyzes the data to seek out categories
and themes from each question. According to Hendricks who drew on the work of Yin
there are five phases to this process. The first phase was compiling, which means that all
of the data is compiled together, and sorted by question. The next phase was
disassembling. This phase is when the data is broken down into smaller categories based
on patterns in the data. The third phase was reassembling the data. This phase is when the
researcher looks at how the themes or categories are related to one another. The next
phase was interpreting, which is when reassembled data are described in such a way as
to tell the story revealed in the data (Hendricks, 2013, p. 156). The last phase was the
concluding phase in which the researcher draws conclusions from interpretations of the
data.

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CHAPTER 4: RESULTS
Starting with demographic information the results are as follows.
The ages of the teachers involved in the study have a wide range;
starting with one person in 18-24 category, four teachers in 25-34
category, two teachers in 35-44 category, three teachers in 45-54
category and two teachers in 55-64 category. All the teachers that
participated in the study were white females. In addition, half (6) of the
teachers have a bachelors degree while the other half (6) have
obtained a masters degree in teaching. The teachers all have
different years of experience ranging from two years of teaching to 25
plus years of teaching. Moreover, there were five 1st grade teachers,
four kindergarten teachers, two reading specialists and one librarian
that participated in the study. After analyzing the responses, there
were not any significant differences in opinions based on the above
demographic information.
Figure 1

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Have traditional Gender sterotypes impacted your life?

Yes
No

No 42%
Yes 58%

Figure 1: Represents the number of responses to the question


have traditional gender stereotypes impacted your life. N=12
Figure 1 illustrates that seven out of the twelve teachers that
participated in the study suggest that gender stereotypes have
impacted their life while five teachers state that gender stereotypes
have not impacted their life. The teachers that acknowledged that
gender stereotypes have impacted their life explain further that they
were raised in homes that had traditional gender stereotypical roles.
For example participant 4 states, I was raised in a Christian home and
being a Christian to me is following what God set as an example in the
bible. In the bible, men and women, husbands and wives have a
special role to play to abide by Gods laws and teachings. Similarly,
applicant 1 discusses that it does impact her life as a teacher because
she is in a pretty stereotypical professionnot very many men are
teaching primary level students. On the other hand, participant 5
discusses that she was raised to believe that I could do whatever I set

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my mind to. Furthermore, participant 9 states that her parents


encouraged that there should not be any particular stereotypes
placed upon people.
Figure 2

How do you think the majority of children's books portray genders roles?

Non-traditional gender roles 25%

Traditional gender roles


Non-traditional gender
roles

Traditional gender roles 75%

Figure 2: Response to the question: How do you think the


majority of childrens books portray gender roles? N=12
Nine out of the twelve participants believe that guided reading
books and childrens literature portray traditional gender stereotypical
roles while three teachers believe that childrens literature does not
display traditional gender roles. These results are displayed in Figure 2.
Participant 8 believes that books still portray gender roles in a very
traditional ways which makes children think they have to fit a certain
stereotype. Helpless, homemakers, talkative, and frilly are
adjectives that participant 7 used to describe female characters in
childrens literature. In addition, participant 7 described males in
childrens books as active, dominant and athletic. On the contrary,
participant 1 states that recent books show females and males in all

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types of roles. Moreover, participant 10 believes that authors are more


aware of gender stereotyping and know how to avoid it now when
writing childrens books.
Figure 3

Do you think children's books affect how students think about gender stereotypes?

No; 8%
Yes
No

Yes; 92%

Figure 3: Answers to the question: Do you think childrens books


affect how students think about gender stereotypes? N=12
As shown in Figure 3, eleven out of twelve teachers think that
childrens books affect how students think about gender stereotypes
and only one teacher does not think childrens books affect how
students think about gender stereotypes. Participant 9 not only
believes that practically all books have gender stereotypes in them
even if that isnt the primary purpose of the book, but also she believes
that numerous teachers use books as teaching tool. As a result, she
concludes that students do in fact learn gender roles from read alouds
or guided reading books. Furthermore, participant 2 states that a

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reading strategy that she teaches is to make personal connections to


characters in the book, which results in making connections to a
specific gender. Whereas participant 4 believes children learn most of
their stereotypes from their home life settings and how they are raised
and what their familys beliefs are.
Figure 4

Have you observed students impersonate gender sterotypical behaviors that align with children's literature?

Yes; 25%

Yes
No

No; 75%

Figure 4: Responses to: Have you observed students


impersonate gender stereotypical behaviors that align with
childrens literature? N=12
Figure four displays that only three out of twelve teachers have
observed students impersonate gender stereotypical behaviors that
align with childrens literature that teachers have read in class,
whereas nine teachers have not witnessed students embodying gender
stereotypical behaviors from read alouds. Participant 6 recalls that
there were times that students engaged in stereotypical behaviors that

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were from books. She states that after she read a book about
exercising featuring primarily boys, the girl students stated, Girls
dont like to workout or sweat. Participant 6 stated that the class had
a conversation about how she works out and that girls indeed enjoy
those activities. Participant 2 states that she has not seen students
impersonating behaviors from books but that if she were to watch her
students for more than a year her guess would be that she would start
to see behaviors that align in with the books they were exposed to.
Figure 5

Are traditional gender sterotypes in children's books a factor that you use when choosing what children's books you read aloud or pick for guided reading groups?

Yes; 25%

Yes
No

No; 75%

Figure 5: Responses to: Are traditional gender stereotypes in


childrens books a factor that you use when choosing what
childrens books you read aloud or pick for guided reading
groups? N=12
Only three teachers out of twelve stated that traditional gender
stereotypes in childrens book is a factor when choosing a read aloud
or guided reading books while nine teachers stated that traditional
gender stereotypes are not a factor when choosing a read aloud or a

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guided reading book. However, out of the nine teachers that stated
that traditional gender stereotypes is not a factor four of those
teachers stated that they would discuss the gender stereotypes in the
book to make it a teachable moment. Participant 2 states she tries to
pick books that she knows that students will identify with thus she
states that it changes each year what books she picks. Moreover,
another participant states that it is a factor for her because she wants
everyone to be able to relate to a character in a story or to see how he
or she might differ from a character in a story. She believes that it is
important for students to encounter people that are different from
them, which can be in the form of gender roles. Participant 3 and many
other participants state that they do not pick books based on gender
but pick books based on the students skill level and based on
classroom themes.
Thus the results suggest that a majority of the teachers believe
that children learn about gender stereotypes from childrens literature
and that childrens literature portrays traditional gender roles.
However, a majority of teachers do not consider traditional gender
stereotypes a factor when choosing a childrens book for read alouds or
guided reading books.

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CHAPTER 5: DISCUSSION
The results of this research are significant because they
indicated that a majority of the teachers believe that childrens
literature books portray traditional gender roles and that children learn
from childrens books; however, a majority of the teachers conclude
that gender roles are not a factor when picking a read aloud or guided
reading book. Moreover, many teachers stated that after taking the
survey that they would start to pay more attention to gender roles in
childrens books or make it a point to talk about them with their
students.
Not only did I decided to do my action research project on this
concept to gain insight on teachers perspectives about gender roles in
childrens books but also to bring awareness to teachers that they
should consider gender roles in their guided reading books or read
alouds. Therefore, these results suggest that teachers should be
aware of gender roles in childrens literature because children do in
fact learn from books. I hope this study helps teachers recognize that
everything they expose to their students including gender roles in
childrens books shape the beliefs of their students. As a result, I think
that the survey did its purpose in that teachers at my school stated
they would start to consider gender roles a factor when picking out
guided reading books or read alouds. Subsequently, if teachers make
a note to pick books that represents all different types of gender roles

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then hopefully students discover that they are not limited to specific
roles but can be whoever they want to be in society.
In addition, the results show that the schools that the teachers
attended either for their bachelors or for their masters are not teaching
the complex topic that gender roles start to form at a very young age
and that many children learn these stereotypes through childrens
books. In my liberal arts education, I took a class on childrens
literature where I learned how childrens books impact how children
think. This class demonstrated that even the simplest books have
underlying messages and themes. Thus I think that all teachers need
to take a class on childrens literature to understand how important
childrens books are to children developmentally.
Furthermore, the results suggest that many teachers only pick
books based on the standards that they are trying to teach the
children. A majority of the teachers stated that they pick books on
what theme or concept they are trying to teach. This made me think
about our education system. It seems that our education system has
become more regimented due to the government putting an emphasis
on testing. Even though I conducted my research study on grades that
do not test for the state, the teachers may only teach the standards to
get the students ready for the tests when they are older. Teachers may
feel pressure that they need to meet all of the standards that they
might believe they do not have time to discuss other issues including

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gender roles. I think that this is such a shame because there are many
other concepts that are important besides reading, writing, math,
science and social studies.
There were many limitations to my study. One major limitation to
my study was the population. The survey was only sent to one
elementary school in suburban Kansas. It would be more interesting to
have a larger population that included, male teachers, ethnical and
racial diverse teachers, low-income schools and schools that are
located not just in Kansas. I sense that Kansas is a very conservative
state so it would have been interesting to send my surveys to schools
in California or New York. I think that the study would more enriched if I
were to expand the research population.
Not only are their limitations but there are also ways to expand
the research study. One way I would have liked to extend the study is
to read nontraditional gender role books to students in elementary
schools and observe how the students react to the reading. I would
observe their recess and play time to see if they embody any of the
gender roles. This study would probably take about a year to complete
as a classroom teacher. Perhaps I can complete this study when I have
my own classroom when I have time and a classroom to observe the
behaviors of the students.
There were many different strengths of this research study, one
being that there were not any research studies on this concept. There

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were several research studies stating that a majority of the childrens


books portrayed traditional gender stereotypes. Moreover, there were
studies that showed that children learn gender stereotypes from books.
These studies would read traditional or nontraditional gender
stereotype books to a child and observe which toy they would play with
after the reading of the book. The result suggest that when the
children were read books with traditional gender roles then the child
would pick a traditional gender role; however if they were read a book
with nontraditional gender roles then the children would pick a toy that
was non gender stereotypical. However, there were no studies that
demonstrated the teacher perspectives and if they thought about it
when picking out guided reading books or read alouds. Thus I think
that this research study will enhance this concept and will bring
awareness to teachers on this issue.

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CHAPTER 6: WORKS CITED


Ashton, E. (1983). Measures of play behavior: The influence of sex role
stereotyped
children's books. Sex Roles, 9, 43-47. Retrieved May 18, 2015
Barnett, M. (2001). Sex Bias in the Helping Behavior Presented in
Childrens Picture
Books. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 1477(3), 343-351.
Retrieved March 16, 2015.
Bem, S. (1981). Gender schema theory: A cognitive account of sex
typing. Psychological Review, 88(4), 354-364.
Brien, J. (2009). Encyclopedia of gender and society (Vol. 2). London:
SAGE.
Bussey, K., & Bandura, A. (1992). Self-Regulatory Mechanisms
Governing Gender
Development. Child Development, 1236-1250.
Childrens Literature. (2008, November 1). Retrieved March 28, 2015,
from
http://www.loc.gov/acq/devpol/chi.pdf

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Diekman, A., & Murnen, S. (2004). Learning to be Little Women and


Little Men: The
Inequitable Gender Equality of Nonsexist Childrens
Literature. Sex Roles, 50(5/6), 373-386. Retrieved March 16,
2015.
EmmaWatson:Genderequalityisyourissuetoo.(2014,September20).RetrievedApril
17,2015,fromhttp://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2014/9/emmawatson
genderequalityisyourissuetoo
Flerx, V., Fidler, D., & Rogers, R. (1976). Sex role stereotypes:
Developmental aspects
and early intervention. Child Development, 47, 998-1007.
Retrieved May 18, 2015
Hamilton, M., Anderson, D., Broaddus, M., & Young, K. (2006). Gender
stereotyping
and under-representation of female characters in 200 popular
childrens picture books: A twenty-first century update. Sex Roles,
55(11-12), 757-765.
Ly Kok, J., & Findlay, B. (2006). An exploration of sex-role stereotyping
in Australian
award-winning children's picture books. Australian Library
Journal, 55(3), 248- 261. Retrieved May 18, 2015
McDonald, S. (1988). Sex Bias in the Representation of Male and
Female Characters
in Childrens Picture Book. Journal of Genetic Pscyhology, 150(4),
389-401. Retrieved March 18, 2015.
Oskamp, S., Kaufman, K., & Wolterbeek, L. (1996). Gender Role
Portrayals in
Preschool Picture Books. Social Behavior & Personality, 11(5), 2739. Retrieved March 15, 2015.
Scott, K., & Feldman-Summers, S. (1979). Children's reactions to
textbook stories in
which females are portrayed in traditionally male roles. Journal of
Educational Psychology, 71, 396-402. Retrieved May 18, 2015
Tepper, C., & Cassidy, K. (1999). Gender differences in emotional
language in
children's picture books. Sex Roles, 40(3/4), 265-280.

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The Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Lesbian, Gay, and


Bisexual Clients.
(2011, January 1). Retrieved March 30, 2015, from
http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/sexuality-definitions.pdf
Trepanier-Street, M., & Romatowski2, J. (1999). The Influence of
Children's
Literature on Gender Role Perceptions: A Reexamination. Early
Childhood Education Journal,, 26(3). Retrieved March 18, 2015.
Turner-Bowker, D. (1996). Gender stereotyped descriptors in children's
picture
books: Does Curious Jane exist in literature? Sex Roles,
35(7/8), 461-488. Retrieved May 18, 2015
Williams, A., Vernon, J., Williams, M., & Malecha, K. (1987). Sex Role
Socialization in
Picture Books: An Update. Digital Commons, 148-156.Retrieved
March 16, 2015.
Weitzman, L., Eifler, D., Hokada, E., & Ross, C. (1972). Sex-Role
Socialization In
Picture Books For Preschool Children. American Journal of
Sociology, 77(6), 1125-1150.Retrieved March 16, 2015

APPENDIX A: QUESTIONAIRE
QUESTIONAIRE
Thank you for participating in this research and completing this questionnaire which
aims to assess your perceptions of gender stereotyping in childrens books and if it is a

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factor you use when picking guided reading books and read alouds. Please do not sign
your name in completing this questionnaire. This questionnaire data will NOT identify
you directly. Please keep students name anonymous. Your participation in completing this
questionnaire is completely voluntary. You have the right to refuse to complete this
questionnaire and take part in this study. By completing this survey, you are consenting to
your participation in this project.
1. What is your age?
a. 21-24
b. 25-34
c. 35-44
d. 45-54
2. What is your ethnicity origin?
a. White
b. Hispanic or Latino
c. Black or African American
d. Native American
e. Asian/Pacific Islander
3. What level of education have you obtained
a. Bachelors Degree
b. Masters Degree
c. Doctorate Degree
4. What is your gender?
a. Male
b. Female
5. What grade do you teach?
6. How long have you been teaching?
7. Do you think childrens books affect how students think about gender
stereotypes? Elaborate.
8. Have you observed students impersonate gender stereotypical behaviors that align
with childrens literature that you have read aloud or assigned for guided reading
groups? Explain.
9. Have traditional gender stereotypes impacted your life? Explain
10. Are traditional gender stereotypes positive, negative or neutral? Explain.
11. How do you think the majority of childrens books portray gender roles?
12. Are traditional gender stereotypes in childrens books a factor that you use when
choosing what childrens books you read aloud or pick for guided reading groups?
Explain

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APPENDIX B: VOCABULARY SHEET FOR QUESTIONNAIRE


Vocabulary Sheet for Questionnaire

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Gender: Behavior that is compatible with cultural expectations and refers to the
attitudes, feelings and behaviors that a given culture associates with persons biological
sex.
Traditional Gender Roles: Behaviors and practices differentially assigned to women
and men. Men are generally described as independent, aggressive, physical, ambitious
and emotionless, while women are expected to be passive, sensitive emotional, nurturing
and supportive. Moreover, traditional males occupations include doctors, fireman and
policeman while females traditional occupation include teachers, nurses and housewives.
Children: Defined as young people that range from 3-6 years old or are children in
preschool, kindergarten or 1st grade.
Childrens literature/books: material written and produced for the information or
entertainment of children and young adults. This literature includes artistic illustrations,
fairy tales, non-fiction, fiction and these books are written at the childrens developmental
level.

APPENDIX C: RECRUTING SCRIPT


Recruiting Script

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Hello my name is, Allison Kirby. I am a graduate student at the University of Saint Mary
in the Masters of Elementary Education program. I am conducting research on teachers
perceptions of gender stereotypes in childrens literature, and I am inviting you to
participate in my study because you are a teacher who uses childrens literature with
students in kindergarten or 1st grade or a reading specialists.
Participation in this research includes taking a 12-question survey about your perceptions
of gender roles in childrens literature and if gender roles are a factor when picking read
alouds or guided reading books. This survey will take you approximately 20-40 minutes
to complete. This questionnaire will be administered to you via email. Your participation
is solicited, and is strictly voluntary. You are assured that your real name will not be
associated in any way with the research findings, you will only be identified as a subject
#. You should be aware that if you agree to participate in the study you are free to
withdraw at any time without penalty.
If you would like additional information concerning this study before participating or
concerns about this study please feel free to contact me by phone or e-mail.
Allison Kirby
(913) 433-6330
akirby@usd232.org

APPENDIX D: INFORMED CONSENT FORM

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Informed Consent Statement


The graduate program, Master of Elementary Education, at the
University of St. Mary supports the practice of protection for human
subjects participating in research. The following information is provided
for you to decide whether you wish to participate in the present study.
You should be aware that even if you agree to participate in the study
you are free to withdraw at any time without penalty.
We are interested in studying the attitudes of teachers towards the use
of gender stereotypes in childrens literature. More specifically, this
study examines if traditional gender stereotypes types affects how
teachers pick their guided reading books or read alouds. Your
participation in this study will involve filling out a questionnaire on this
question. The questionnaire will be administered to the teacher
candidate via email. The questionnaire will take approximately 30 to 35
minutes for the teacher to complete. The purpose of this questionnaire
is to obtain the attitudes and insights that the teachers have on gender
stereotypes in childrens literature.
Your participation is solicited, and is strictly voluntary. You are assured
that your real name will not be associated in any way with the research
findings. You will only be identified as subject #, in the interview
transcriptions. If you would like additional information concerning this
study before or after it is complete, please feel free to contact me by
phone or e-mail.
Sincerely,

.
Allison Kirby
University of St Mary
Principal Investigator
Education
Masters of Elementary Education
11413 Pflumm Road
66215
Overland Park, KS 66215
(913)433-6330

Dr. Ollie Bogdon


Faculty Supervisor
Masters of Elementary

Signature of subject agreeing to participate

11413 Pflumm Road


Overland Park, KS
913-682-5151

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With my signature I affirm that I am at least 18 years of age and have


received a copy of the consent form to keep.