"How does the current pre-school literature portray gender role stereotypes. Discuss"
Spring 2014 Candidate No: 118267 Word Count
Gender & Life Course (elect)
"How does the current pre-school literature portray gender role stereotypes. Discuss”
‘Children in every culture learn to adopt certain roles and behaviours as part of the socialisation process. Many of these behavioural roles are based on identification with a particular sex’ (Kortenhaus & Demarest 1993, 219).
The society in which we live plays a fundamental role in our children's social roles, one of the most important and pervasive being gender identity. With a rise of children starting pre school and nursery settings, there is an increasing effect on gender roles and what is expected.
Gooden & Gooden (2001) define gender roles as being ‘behaviours that society teaches are “correct” for boys and girls” and gender stereotype as ‘assumptions made about the characteristics of each gender, such as physical appearance, physical abilities, attitudes, interests, or occupations’. It is our culture that determines the gender roles, and what is believed to be either masculine or feminine, and have been evident in our society for hundreds of years. Examples of these traits would be men are strong, leaders and adventurous, whereas women are passive, followers and there to serve others.
These roles are extremely hard to break, as they constantly form part of our everyday lives in schools, homes, media and in our literature.
Literacy and books are an essential part of development for any child, not only for the development of cognitive skills, and emotional development, but also ‘it nurtures growth and development of the students personality and social skills; and it transmits important literature and themes from one generation to the next’ (Crippen 2012, 2). With this in mind, our values and morals are being drilled in to us from the moment our parents or caregivers start reading us stories.
For preschool aged children, where ‘boys already identify with masculine roles, and girls with feminine roles (Brown 1956), through the clothes they wear, and toys they play with, books are an important source of information. They serve as a socialising tool, and allow children to make sense of there environment. ‘Children have relatively less knowledge of real world limitations, less ability to countersue information effectively and less differentiation between fact and fiction’ (Diekman & Murnen 2004, 373). Children are very impressionable at this age, and these books play an important role in teaching children valuable skills about friendship, values and gender perceptions. Even with an increase of children watching television and playing video games, it is books that gain better retention, and memory recall.
Richards (2008) suggests the memory toolbox, which contains three key strategies to help memory: repetition, imagery, and patterns (RIP). We remember something best when it is organised and rehearsed. Which is exactly what preschool children do with their stories, as they like to read their books over and over again (repetition), look at the pictures, and decipher their own story, based on how the story goes (imagery) or looking at the illustrations, will remember the story based on what they are used to hearing (patterns). We know children are impressionable and like sponges at this age, so ‘If children’s literature displays stereotyped gender roles, it will present restricted role models for children and help to shape their behaviour in stereotyped directions’ (Oskamp et al. 1996, 28). Therefore creating and developing and ongoing set of ideas with regards to their gender identity.
In the 1970’s, research on gender representation in children's literature was undertaken by Weitzman et al (1972) where ‘an examination of prize winning picture books reveals that woman are greatly under-represented in their