I’m a picture book and novelty book editor working in London. In 2011 I wrote a dissertation for my Publishing MA: Society and Commercialism: Core Factors in Picture Book Sex Stereotyping.
If you’re interested in the topic of gender visibility in picture books, you can read about the dissertation and download the PDF below.
The following research uses content analysis and interviewing techniques to ascertain current and past attitudes towards gender depiction in UK children’s picture book publishing. It hypothesises that, in line with previous research, female characters are underrepresented – but that whilst females are gradually being depicted with a wider range of characteristics, male characters continue to conform within traditional gender stereotypes.
Qualitative findings confirm the first hypothesis, whilst the latter two theories are disproved. However, interviews with industry experts highlight the narrow portrayal of male characters as a major issue in picture books today.
The study also provides an overview of gender development research, and compares data about child gender representation preferences with outcomes of real world commercial decision-making. It also examines the factors influencing gender attitudes in the publishing chain, from author to end user.
It concludes by arguing that more needs to be done to provide both boys and girls with varied gender depictions, and that meaningful debate about gender in children’s publishing is crucial.
PDF available at: Society and Commercialism: Core Factors in Picture Book Sex Stereotyping.
N.B. This is a public version where names of publishers and agents have been removed to protect their privacy, and where the major statistical analysis has been removed to prevent readers from dying of boredom. If anyone is particularly keen for that level of detail, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.