Date of Submission

Spring 2016

Academic Programs and Concentrations

Gender and Sexuality Studies

Project Advisor 1

Sarah Dunphy-Lelii

Abstract/Artist's Statement

Literature is an aspect of a child’s environment that can influence a child’s gender development. Throughout the twentieth century, female characters have been underrepresented in comparison to male characters in award-winning children’s picture books. Based on past research, the aim of the current study was to investigate the representation of female characters in contemporary and popular children’s chapter books. A content analysis was conducted for 22 New York Times Middle Grade bestsellers, including 9 female protagonist books and 13 male protagonist books. Character counts and dialogue counts were coded for each book. Male characters outnumbered female characters with a ratio of 1.4:1. Male characters spoke more than female characters with a ratio of 1.7:1. Female characters were represented significantly less than 50% of the time and spoke significantly less than 50% of the time. Also, female characters spoke significantly less than was expected when accounting for their lower character counts. Female characters and male characters were represented more equally in character counts and dialogue counts in female protagonist books than male protagonist books. The current study confirms the conclusions of past research that female characters are underrepresented, as well as demonstrating that female characters are also underrepresented in dialogue. These findings indicate a continuing problem of gender inequality in children’s literature.

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