The continuous rise in global integration and mobility in the past two decades has caused a quest for diversity in educational settings and programmes. Policymakers want children’s literature that recognises and respects diverse languages, cultures, and values. Here, literature refers to texts or books that children read or view and listen to when others read them to them. Gopalakrishnan (2011) explained that children’s books are necessary for educational settings because they encourage language and communication exposures that result in the growth of children’s vocabulary.

Although there are currently some significant improvements in the portrayal of different groups in children’s literature, there still are a number of disturbing stereotypes. Underrepresentation of females in children’s books is also evident. Seitz, Lenhart and Rubsam (2020) reported that even the most recent children’s books continue to promote the traditional orientation of gender roles, by excluding females in main character roles. The authors added that children’s literature also contain biased portrayals of the two genders and that the children’s books have not offered equal representation of males and females. Many negative outcomes result from these.

Impact of Gender Norms from Children’s Literature

  • Gender norms teach children biased expectations of their gender

Children’s literature presents the genders in stereotypical terms. For instance, children’s books depict females as beautiful and graceful while men are portrayed as strong and with great cognitive capabilities. These portrayals, for example, dictate how males cope with emotions. They are not allowed to show weakness, express sadness, and are expected to remain tough.

Morgan (2009) discussed that educators should pay attention to the way children’s books represent different groups. This is because the traditional children’s books often lack authenticity in the portrayal of racial and ethnic experiences. Again, the settings in which children find themselves give them the opportunity to learn how to construct and value diversity. Children that spend early childhood years in mono-cultural settings often perceive others through stereotypes they gathered from texts and digital media. This is dissolved through literature that focuses on society’s pluralistic nature.

  • Gender norms from children’s literature put an invisible burden of caretaking upon girls and women 

Children’s literature teaches girls to suppress their experience in order to please males. Persiani-Becker (2011) argued that whenever children read a text, it leaves an impression and influences their values or dreams. The impressions could be negative and stereotypical if the book they read is not authentic. It also eliminates hopes and the children’s aspirations begin to diminish. Such experiences may also make school the worst place for children. Sadly, Swartz (2003) reported that defusing prejudices in schools is not a priority to many states, despite the fact that the prejudices are apparent.

Children should be exposed to authentic and true representations of linguistic, cultural, and social settings. If diversity is not acknowledged, children face several emotional and intellectual challenges. Children become anxious, fearful, and doubtful if literature fails to shed light on their world or if it depicts the children’s world using stereotypes and discrimination. When educators share books with the children, the young ones begin developing a sense of identity.

They may as well get exposure to ideas, opinions and start to understand similarities and differences. Texts symbolise mirror in the area of personal identity or encounters and is the window through which a child sees the world’s diversity. In this way, it promotes cross-cultural understanding. It texts exposes children to diversity, they are capable of making connections, establishing relationships, and developing a community.

  • Gender norms encourage violence among boys and men while making the females victims of the same

Children’s literature portray girls as naive, dependent, sweet, and conforming. Contrarily, male characters appear as having great physical strength, adventurous, aggressive, and independent. The books also present boys as rescuers and fighters while girls act as princesses, mothers, and caretakers.

Such literature encourages boys to remain aggressive and reject objection while female are expected to stay passive and nice to the male gender. Kim, Wee, and Park (2019) stated that in an educational setting, use of multicultural materials (books) enhances creation and maintenance of academic decisions, schedules, and programmes/project that support respect for different cultures.

Multiculturalism results in a broad range of educational strategies for resolving issues related to diversity and inclusion. When implemented early enough, multicultural books mould children to focus on positive self-identity while directing them to treat everyone with care and fairness.  Such an anti-bias curriculum has the ability to address diversity and equality issues in a classroom. Teachers that apply this approach also equip children with the ability to confront prejudice while acknowledging the essence of diversity in society.

  • The biased literature content teaches children to ignore the recent progress and successes achieved by females

 Ullah, Ali, and Naz (2014) explained that gender stereotypes has led to invisibility of women in literature texts and images. Scholars have pointed out the male character emphasis in children’s books. In most cases, boys' names are indicated twice as much as of girls. Moreover, only boys’ books tend to have gender-neutral names.

Ullah and colleagues found that textbooks in Pakistan schools rarely highlight women or display their picture the same way they do for men and boys. Nebbia (2016) added to these discoveries by stating that children’s books support the “mainstream” culture. The traditional division of gender, used in children’s literature, exposes them to the differences in leisure and occupational activities.

Such literature teaches children the strict gender roles that females are now making their way of. This indicates that the existing literature is still steps back as far as female empowerment and accomplishments are concerned. Gender stereotypes in children’s literature impact their self-identity and image. Biased books, thus, create and ingrain gender stereotypes in children at a young age. Children tend to accept the stereotypes and easily internalise them due to the emphasised illustrations and continuous readings.


Children’s books are available as resources for cultural and social learning. The inferences literature makes concerning gender,selecting and using and other world experiences aid the recognition of a child’s identity. A problem, however, emerges if the books teachers use only glorify the discrimination in various societies. To solve these issues, educators should ensure they expose children to literature that embraces diversity.

Therefore, teachers should get adequate training on the selection and use of multicultural literature.  Training policies should ensure that educators are guided by value and respect for all learners when developing or dismantling the curriculum. This way, the educators succeed in preparing learners to dwell in a society characterised by rapid changes and where gender, race and social status determine the benefits accessible to a group.