1,133 books from 19 different award categories, published over the last 100 years, were studied to examine issues of race and gender. The analysis of images revealed the following about race in children’s books:
- Books in the Mainstream collection are more likely to depict lighter-skinned characters than those in the Diversity collection. Specifically, books in the Mainstream collection are much more likely to depict characters who are racially ambiguous in terms of skin color, disproportionately using skin colors that cannot be classified either as that of light-skinned characters nor as that of dark-skinned characters, a technique the authors call “butterscotching.”
- Over the last two decades, representation of lighter skin tones in Mainstream books has actually increased.
- Children are more likely than adults to be shown with lighter skin, in both Mainstream and Diversity collections.
- Females have always appeared in pictures over time, but they are predominantly white females and still average less than 50 percent of pictures and text.
The authors also compared the female appearances in images to female mentions in text and found:
- Females are more consistently seen in images than written about in the text, except in the collection of books specifically selected to highlight females. The authors deduced that this suggests “symbolic inclusion of females in pictures without their substantive inclusion in the actual story.”
- Males, especially white males, are persistently more likely to be represented by every measure, with little change over time.
- Adukia, A. et al. (2021). What we teach about race and gender: Representation in images and text of children's books. Becker Friedman Institute.
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