The development of prejudice in children
Analyze one children’s book (you can use the list provided below in appendix 2, find books in the libraries or bookstores, OR just google “children’s book online” to get some free online books) using A Checklist for Analyzing Bias in Children’s Books (appendix 1). Note: You do NOT have to analyze the book using every checklist (in fact, please do not—that will be way too long), but you have to demonstrate your knowledge and effort.
A CHECKLIST FOR ANALYZING BIAS IN CHILDREN’S BOOKS
Check the illustrations
• Look for stereotypes. Some illustrations are blatantly stereotypical; others may be
more subtle in ridiculing characters based on their race or sex.
• Look for tokenism. Check to be sure that the illustrator has not simply used white
characters colored in and that all people of color do not look alike.
• Examine who is doing what. Are only white men active or in leadership roles? Are
women or people of color in passive or subservient roles?
Check the story line for bias in the following areas:
• Standards for success: do people of color have to exhibit white behavior in order to
succeed? Must people of color be extraordinary in order to succeed?
• Resolutions of problems: are problems solved by white people? Are societal problems
explained or are they treated as inevitable? Are minority people considered to be the
• Role of women: are achievements of women and girls based on their looks? Could the
same story be told if the sex roles were reversed and the characters were men or
Look at the lifestyles
• Are the contrasts between people of color and whites negative?
• Are people of color presented in settings other than the barrio or ghetto?
• Does the author sincerely present an alternative lifestyle without negative value
• Are women and those of diverse family styles fairly represented?
Weigh the relationships between people
• Are the whites or males in the story in control?
• Are the family structures stereotypical?
Note the heroes
• If the heroes or heroines are persons of color or women, do they avoid all conflict with
whites or with men?
• Are they admired for the same qualities as white and male heroes or heroines?
Consider the effects on a child’s self image
• Are standards established that limit the child’s aspirations and self-esteem?
• Are there positive and constructive role models for children of color and for females?
Consider the author’s or illustrator’s background, if possible
• If the book is about people of color or women, does the author or illustrator have the
experience and knowledge necessary to create nonbiased descriptions or
Check the author’s perspective
• Is the author or illustrator’s personal perspective limited?
• Does this view distort the story in any way?
Watch for loaded words
• Some words carry insulting or derogatory connotations.
• Does the author avoid the use of such words as “savage,” “treacherous,” and
“primitive” when describing people of given ethnic, cultural, or social groups?
Look at the copyright date
• The copyright date is no guarantee that a book is nonbiased, but more recent books
generally present a more authentic view of people of color and women than those
published in the 1960’s and before.
(Information taken from:
“Ten quick ways to analyze books for racism and sexism”
taken from Children’s Literature: An Issues Approach by Masha K. Rudman, (1984), 2nd
edition, p. 126, Longman. The information was adopted and reprinted from the Council on
Interracial Books for Children, Inc.’s publication.)
Mary Voors (2008) provided a list of children’s books with strong stereotypes or bias that included
a. I’m a Boy! I’m Glad I’m a Girl! by Whitney Darrow, Jr. (1970)
b. The Five Chinese Brothers by Claire Huchet Bishop and Kurt Wiese (1938)
c. The Story of Little Black Sambo written and illustrated by Helen Bannerman (1946)
She also listed books that are useful for purposes of discussion with kids of bias/stereotypes, including
a. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig (1969)
b. Brother Eagle, Sister Sky by Susan Jeffers (1991)
c. Little Mommy by Sharon Kane (2008)
Here are books that Voors categorized as having such a strong message that the characters they convey are almost caricatures of stereotypes
a. When Chocolate Milk Moved In by Ken Harvey, illustrations by Mary Sue Hermes (2002)
b. This is Russell. Russell is a Republican. by Deborah C. Gamec (2002)
c. Help! Mom! There are Liberals Under My Bed! by Katharine DeBrecht (2005)
Here are Voors’ examples of books that reflect diversity without bias or stereotypes
a. Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman (1991)
b. The Family Book by Todd Parr (2003)
c. A Rainbow All Around Me by Sandra L. Pinkney, Photographs by Myles C. Pinkney (2002)
d. Families by Ann Morris (2000)
The development of prejudice in children