Representation of Race and Sex of Characters in Children's Books

Presented by:
Senay Gokcebel Maya J. Gardner Lukas Resch (Grinnell College)

Representation is a topic of great importance as the United States becomes increasingly diverse, particularly because of the impact on young children. In this paper, children’s books from Drake Library in Grinnell, Iowa were analyzed to determine if one sex or race was overrepresented. We find that (a) there are a higher proportion of female characters than male characters (p=0.0010), (b) there are a higher proportion of white characters than characters of color (p=0.0000), (c) protagonist race and sex are not associated and are not confounded by publication year or author sex, and (d) protagonists are equally represented across each sex and race. We hope that this study will call to attention the overrepresentation of characters in children's books, and will prompt a change to equal representation among all sexes and races of characters and protagonists in picture books.