Picture-Book Professors: Academia and Children’s Literature

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Melissa Terras, a professor at the University of Edinburgh, argues in her latest academic book, Picture-Book Professors: Academia and Children’s Literature, that there is a stereotype in children’s literature when it comes to professions. In her research, Terras collected and analyzed the corpus of 289 books. Terras decided to pick professors to analyze in children’s literature. From her research and analysis, she discovered that the stereotype in children’s literature of professors are typically white men who tend to be scientists. The scientists are either absentminded professors or mad, evil scientists. Research also shows that children’s literature lacks a lot of diversity. Most often, the main characters in the children’s literature are white men. “The most striking element of the corpus is gender: of 328 academics, 298 are men and twenty-nine are women (9 percent), with only one having an ambiguous gender identity.”

Terras’s research and corpus is pretty vast and amazing. I didn’t recognize most of the books that were part of the corpus, but since majority of the corpus were British children’s picture books, I wouldn’t know them. Although the stereotypes in the books are not new to me and I’m not surprised by Terras’s findings, it does make me think twice of books that I’m reading to my children and books that I’m purchasing. I want to support and choose books that break gender, class, and racial barriers. I believe we are very fortunate today to have so many more diverse stories where young girls and women are the protagonists of the stories, but there is still a lot of catching up to do. I think authors and publishers are realizing that they have largely ignored an entire population of clientele, and the stories reflect that.

This book is by no means a light read. Far from it, actually. This is an academic book, heavy on research, and there is a lot of research done for this book. Some of the text consist mostly of research citations. There were about 100 pages of citations at the end of the book! I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading academic books or anyone who’s interested in learning more about the stereotypes in children’s literature.

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Star Count 3.5/5
Format eBook
Page Count 152 pages
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Publish Date 2018-Oct-23
ISBN 0978110843845
Bookshop.org Buy this Book
Issue January 2019
Category Books About Books


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