The Genderization of Our Youth by Children’s Books

Author: Madison Howard
Major: Political Science, Sociology
Approved: Spring 2017
Status: Completed

Why do girls like dolls and boys like trucks? Is this the correct question to be asking, or is this a vast generalization? There is no proven biological predisposition for young children of different genders to have certain gendered traits. In an effort to better understand how gender roles are imposed on today’s children, I will read and analyze the Caldecott Medal winning books of the year for the years 1996-2016. I will record their impositions of gender in a code sheet that I shall create in conjunction with my Sociology advisor. I have selected these books because they supposedly signify literary excellence and reflect what topics were valued at the time of their publishing. Reading is education, and as children are learning to read, they are mirroring the actions of their favorite characters, as well as mirroring their peers. While gender roles are often taught and reinforced by one’s family, it is important to note the power of a book and its content in the eyes and hands of a child.
The constructed gender roles that society reinforces have changed over time, and I am interested in how the gendered contents of the books have evolved from 1996 to 2016. Twenty years may not seem particularly long, but a great deal has changed concerning gender roles during this time. By reading and analyzing these works, I will gain a better understanding of how gender is constructed and ultimately buttressed by literature.