logo logo International Journal of Educational Methodology

IJEM is a leading, peer-reviewed, open access, research journal that provides an online forum for studies in education, by and for scholars and practitioners, worldwide.

Subscribe to

Receive Email Alerts

for special events, calls for papers, and professional development opportunities.


Publisher (HQ)

Eurasian Society of Educational Research
College House, 2nd Floor 17 King Edwards Road, Ruislip, London, UK. HA4 7AE
College House, 2nd Floor 17 King Edwards Road, Ruislip, London, UK. HA4 7AE
diversity gender gender stereotypes picture books teacher training

Exploring Pre-Service Teachers’ Perspectives: Gender and Gender Representation across Human Protagonists in Picture Books

Taraneh Matloob Haghanikar , Shan Jiang , Sara Tomek , Lisa M. Hooper

Gender is ever present in education preparation, school materials, curriculum, and school systems. To improve our knowledge about different facets of .


Gender is ever present in education preparation, school materials, curriculum, and school systems. To improve our knowledge about different facets of gender and the extent to which the depiction of gender has changed over time in picture books, there is a need to dig beneath the surface of questions about gender representation in picture books. Given that in-service teachers have proximity to approximately 75 million K-12 students, how in-service teachers think about gender, gender representation, and their own experiences with gender socialization have important implications on how K-12 students think, act, and feel about gender. In this study, we focused on teachers’ responses to a semester-long assignment about the selection and review of picture books. Specifically, we captured teachers’ perceptions on gendered images evidenced in picture books and to what extent there are changes (i.e., economical, emotional, physical, political, and social) in the central character throughout the book. We also explored if perceived changes were different based on the gender of the characters. Teachers reported four types of changes among the characters in the picture book. Emotionally changes in the books’ central characters emerged as the most commonly reported change among our participants.

Keywords: Diversity, gender, gender stereotypes, picture books, teacher training.

cloud_download PDF
Article Metrics



American Psychological Association. (2012). Guidelines for psychological practice with lesbian, gay, and bisexual clients. American Psychologist67(1), 10–42. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0024659

American Psychological Association & National Association of School Psychologists. (2015). Resolution on gender and sexual orientation diversity in children and adolescents in schools. https://bit.ly/3L6CzAT

Anderson, D., & Hamilton, M. (2005). Gender role stereotyping of parents in children’s picture books: The invisible father. Sex Roles, 52(3/4), 145–151. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-005-1290-8

Ashley, S. (2013). Body image depictions in Caldecott award winning picture books: A content analysis. Carolina Digital Repository. https://doi.org/10.17615/26sy-k003

Bailey, K. (1994). The girls are the ones with the pointy nails: An exploration of children’s conceptions of gender //Review. Resources for Feminist Research23(1/2), 50-51.

Barnett, M. (1986). Sex bias in the helping behavior presented in children's picture books. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 147(3), 343. https://doi.org/10.1080/00221325.1986.9914508

Bem, S. L. (1981). Gender schema theory: A cognitive account of sex typing. Psychological Review, 88, 354–364. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-295X.88.4.354

Bettelheim, B. (1976). The uses of enchantment: The meaning and importance of fairy tales. Knopf.

Caldera, Y., Huston, A., & O’Brien, M. (1998). Social interactions and play patterns of parents and toddlers with feminine, masculine, and neutral toys. Child Development, 60(1), 70–76. https://doi.org/10.2307/1131072

Carl, J. (2012). Gender vs. sex: What's the difference? Montessori Life, 24(1), 26–30.

Casey, K., Novick, K., & Lourenco, S. F. (2020). Sixty Years of Gender Representation in Children’s Books: Conditions Associated with Male vs. Female Overrepresentation. PLOS ONE, 16(12), 1-12. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0260566

Cowan, G., & Hoffman, C. D. (1986). Gender stereotyping in young children: Evidence to support a concept-learning approach. Sex Roles, 14, 211–224. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00288250

Crisp, T., & Hiller, B. (2011). Is this a boy or a girl?: Rethinking sex-role representation in Caldecott Medal-winning picturebooks, 1938–2011. Children’s Literature in Education, 42(3), 196–212. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10583-011-9128-1

Dale, L. P., Higgins, B. E., Pinkerton, N., Couto, M., Mansolillo, V., Weisinger, N., & Flores, M. (2016). Princess picture books: Content and messages. Journal of Research in Childhood Education30(2), 185-199. https://doi.org/10.1080/02568543.2016.1143415

Davison, K., Queen, R., Lau, F., & Antonio, M. (2021). Culturally competent gender, sex, and sexual orientation information practices and electronic health records: Rapid review. JMIR Medical Informatics, 9(2), e25467. https://doi.org/10.2196/25467

DeLoache, J. S., Cassidy, D. J., & Carpenter, C. J. (1987). The three bears are all boys: Mothers’ gender labeling of neutral picture book characters. Sex Roles, 17(3–4), 163–178. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00287623

Dittmar, H., Halliwell, E., & Ive, S. (2006). Does Barbie make girls want to be thin? The effect of experimental exposure to images of dolls on the body image of 5-to 8-year-old girls. Developmental Psychology42(2), 283-292. https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-1649.42.2.283

Dixon, B. (1977). Catching them young: Sex, race and class in children’s fiction. Pluto Press.

Forster, E. M. (2002). Aspects of the novel. RosettaBooks.

Fraustino, L. R. (2007). The Berenstain bears and the reproduction of mothering. The Lion and the Unicorn, 31(3), 250–263. https://doi.org/10.1353/uni.2007.0030

Frawley, T. J. (2008). Gender schema and prejudicial recall: How children misremember, fabricate, and distort gendered picture book information. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 22(3), 291–303. https://doi.org/10.1080/02568540809594628

GenIUSS Group. (2014). Best practices for asking questions to identify transgender and other gender minority respondents on population-based surveys. University of California.

Gooden, A. M., & Gooden, M. A. (2001). Gender representation in notable children’s picture books: 1995-1999. Sex Roles, 45(1), 89–101. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1013064418674

Greenstone, D. (2008). The sow in the house: The unfulfilled promises of feminism in Ian Falconer’s Olivia Books. Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, 33(1), 26–40. https://doi.org/10.1353/chq.2008.0004

Grimm, J., & Grimm, W. (1812). Kinder-und Hausmärchen [Rumpelstiltskin]. (J. D. Zipes, Trans.). Bantam.

Hamilton, M., Anderson, D., Broaddus, M., & Young, K. (2006). Gender stereotyping and under-representation of female characters in 200 popular children’s picture books: A twenty-first century update. Sex Roles, 55(11–12), 757–765. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-006-9128-6

Hansen, L. E. (2015). Encouraging pre-service teachers to address issues of sexual orientation in their classrooms. Promising Practices, 15, 51–55.

Hateley, E. (2011). Gender. In P. Nel, & L. Paul (Eds.), Keywords for children's literature. New York University Press.

Jackson, S., & Gee, S. (2005). ‘Look Janet’, ‘No you look John’: Constructions of gender in early school reader illustrations across 50 years. Gender and Education, 17(2), 115–128. https://doi.org/10.1080/0954025042000301410

Kelley, J. E. (2008). Power relationships in Rumpelstiltskin: A textual comparison of a traditional and a reconstructed fairy tale. Children’s Literature in Education, 39, 31–41. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10583-006-9039-8

Kostas, M. (2021). Discursive construction of hegemonic masculinity and emphasized femininity in the textbooks of primary education: Children’s discursive agency and polysemy of the narratives. Gender and Education, 33(1), 50–67. https://doi.org/10.1080/09540253.2019.1632807

Liou, D. D., & Hermanns, C. (2017). Preparing transformative leaders for diversity, immigration, and equitable expectations for school-wide excellence. International Journal of Educational Management, 31, 661–678. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJEM-10-2016-0227

Martin, C. L., & Ruble, D. (2004). Children’s search for gender cues: Cognitive perspectives on gender development. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 13(2), 67–70. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0963-7214.2004.00276.x

Mattix, A., & Sobolak, M. J. (2014). Focus on Elementary: The Gender Journey in Picturebooks: A Look Back to Move Forward: Patricia Crawford and April Mattix, Editors. Childhood Education90(3), 229-233.

McFarland, J., Hussar, B., de Brey, C., Snyder, T., Wang, X., Wilkinson-Flicker, S., Gebrekristos, S., Zhang, J., Rathbun, A., Barmer, A., Bullock Mann, F., & Hinz, S. (2017). The Condition of Education 2017. National Center for Education. https://bit.ly/34fA1zR

Moreno, S. (2012). Teaching children about body image and ethnic hair: A rhetorical analysis of picture books and parenting books. The Florida State University.

National Council of Teachers of English. (1995). Guidelines for a gender-balanced curriculum in English language arts pre-k to grade 6. https://ncte.org/statement/genderbalanc edprek6/

National Council of Teachers of English. (2018). Statement on Gender and Language. https://ncte.org/statement/genderfairuseoflang/

Nikolajeva, M. (2014). Emotion ekphrasis: Representation of emotions in children’s picturebooks. In D. Machin (Ed.), Visual Communication (pp. 711-728). De Gruyter Mouton. https://10.1515/9783110255492.711

O’Reilly, A. (2004). Mother Matters: Motherhood as discourse and practice. Arm Press.

Peterson, S. B., & Lach, M. A. (1990). Gender stereotypes in children’s books: Their prevalence and influence on cognitive and affective development. Gender and education2(2), 185-197. https://doi.org/10.1080/0954025900020204

QSR International Pty Ltd. (2021). NVivo (released in February 2021), https://www.qsrinternational.com/nvivo-qualitative-data-analysis-software/home

Rogers, L., & Metlzoff, A. (2017). Is gender more important and meaningful than race? An analysis of racial and gender identity among Black, white, and mixed-race children. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 23 (3), 323–334. https://doi.org/10.1037/cdp0000125

Serbin, L. A., Poulin-Dubois, D., & Eichstedt, J. A. (2002). Infants’ responses to gender-inconsistent events. Infancy, 3(4), 531–542. https://doi.org/10.1207/S15327078IN0304_07

Simpson, J. L., Ljungqvist, A., Ferguson-Smith, M. A., de la Chapelle, A., Elsas II, L. J., Ehrhardt, A. A., & Carlson, A. (2000). Gender verification in the Olympics. JAMA, 284(12), 1568–1569. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.284.12.1568

Söderberg, E., & Nyhlén, S. (2014). Walking beside: Challenging the role of emotions in normalization. Mid Sweden University.

Spitz, E. H. (1996). Between image and child: Further reflections on picture books. American Imago53(2), 177-190. https://doi.org/10.1353/aim.1996.0004

Stanley, D. (1997). Rumpelstiltskin’s daughter. Morrow Junior Books.

Sutcher, L., Darling-Hammond, L., & Carver-Thomas, D. (2016). A coming crisis in teaching? Teacher supply, demand, and shortages in the US. Learning Policy Institute. https://doi.org/10.54300/247.242

Tepper, C., & Cassidy, K. (1999). Gender differences in emotional language in children's picture books. Sex Roles, 40(3/4), 265–280. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1018803122469

Rebel Girls. (2017). The ugly truth of children’s books. [video]. YouTube. https://bit.ly/3L5RtHs  

Theimer, C. E., Killen, M., & Stangor, C. (2001). Young children's evaluations of exclusion in gender-stereotypic peer contexts. Developmental Psychology37(1), 18–27. https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-1649.37.1.18

Trelease, J. (2013). The read-aloud handbook (7th ed.). Penguin.

Vandenberg-Daves, J. (2003). Mama bear as domestic micro manager: The evolution of cultural ideas of motherhood in Berenstain bears book series 1960–2000. Journal of the Association for Research on Mothering, 5(1), 135–147.

Watkins, N. (2021). Critical literacy: Challenging dominant discourses. In Kavanagh, A. M., F. Waldron, & B. Mallon (Eds.), Teaching for social justice and sustainable development across the primary curriculum. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003003021-11

Weitzman, L., Eifler, D., Hokada, E., & Ross, C. (1972). Sex-role socialization in picture books for preschool children. American Journal of Sociology, 77(6), 1125–1150. https://doi.org/10.1086/225261

Westbrook, L., & Saperstein, A. (2015). New categories are not enough: Rethinking the measurement of sex and gender in social surveys. Gender & Society, 29(4), 534–560. https://doi.org/10.1177/0891243215584758

World Health Organization. (2021). Gender in the Western Pacific. https://www.who.int/westernpacific/health-topics/gender-equity-and-human-rights